Holidays are downright hazardous. it’s really no wonder that people tend to get stressed out during the final months of the year, when we are deluged with one festivity after another, each with its accompanying list of holiday dangers.
Take Christmas, for example, the time of year when we intentionally fill our homes with poisonous plants. There’s mistletoe, holly berries, hemlock boughs… It’s a wonder poison oak hasn’t somehow slipped into the yuletide scheme.
Even the supposedly edible holiday fare is subject to circumspection. We all know by now that to actually eat a fruitcake is flirting with danger. I was presented with a fruitcake a couple of years ago, and I am saving it to use as a bookend as soon as I acquire another to make a matching set. But to date that first fruitcake is the only one I ever received. I don’t know why – do you suppose it was something I said?
We thought Christmas was getting safer, what with low- or no-heat tree lights to replace the candles of olden days, and the removal of lead containing tinsel from the market (my siblings and I used to rub the tinsel on our upper lips to make black pencil-thin mustaches on our faces. I could probably have been a James Micheneresque literary genius if only I hadn’t stunted my brain power with tinsel poisoning).
As soon as one holiday hazard is put to rest, another is discovered to take its place. How much eggnog did you drink this year? Did it contain raw eggs? Tsk, tsk. And when you baked your holiday cookies, did you lick the batter (containing more raw eggs) off the beaters? Tsk, tsk. You’ll be lucky to make it to New Years, really. I heard a rumor that next year’s eggnog cartons will sport little red and green skull-and-crossbones instead of their regular holiday motifs. Not to ruin all your fun, though, I imagine the skull will be wearing a red Santa Claus cap with a fuzzy white ball on the tip.
Once you make it through December, you can pretty much let your guard down for several months. About the biggest threat during the first portion of any year’s activities is cracking a tooth on a cherry pit while eating cherry pie on George Washington’s birthday. Then, assuming you survive the Fourth of July without any explosive mishaps, you can rest easy until Halloween.
The hazards of Halloween, while not decreasing, have certainly changed over the years. In earlier times, one of the “tricks” of trick-or-treating was to topple outhouses during the night. According to my uncle, this innocent activity posed some hazards if it was pulled on the same household too many times. One farmer got wise, and when my uncle – er, I mean someone he knew – snuck up behind the outhouse to tip it over, he found himself swimming in sewage. The farmer had shifted the privy off of its pit, treating the tricksters to some of their own medicine.
While my generation faced a scarcity of outhouses to torment, the real hazards of Halloween were well substantiated by the establishment of a new Hallows Eve tradition: taking your treats to the hospital to be x-rayed before consumption.
Then there’s Thanksgiving. The major threat here, besides simply overeating, is that seemingly harmless, mild-mannered turkey. Old Tom Turkey is really kind of a Jekyll-and-Hyde figure. One wrong move in storing, handling or cooking the bird, and it turns your kitchen and/or dining room into a festering fecundity of food poisoning.
Since we’ve survived the worst of it for this year, we can pat ourselves on the back for our successful holiday vigilance. And to see ourselves safely through New Year’s Eve, the best advice is that offered by MADD and SADD (I contemplated founding “Writers Against Drunk Driving,” but the acronym WADD lacked sufficient dignity. So instead, I formed WASTE: Writers Against the Same Things as Everyone else,) namely: don’t drink and drive.
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