When Christmas Decoration is a Full-Contact Sport

A modest proposal for dealing with holiday-related injuries

In a recent New Yorker look at holiday-related decorating injuries, Ben Wellington, a professor at the Pratt Institute, warns that every year around 15,000 people check into the ER as a direct result of yuletide mishap. These seasonal blunders include everything from stepladder spills to string-light electrocutions to giant candy cane bludgeonings. There was also this one guy who apparently kept trying to eat his tree ornaments.

This guy is ready for Christmas decorating

While I really can’t speak to a compulsive desire to put shiny plastic orbs in one’s mouth, an important lesson we can glean from the annual spate of Christmas slapstick is the need for greater safety when setting up for the holidays. It’s time to recognize that hanging stockings and lights is a full-contact sport, and participants should be prepared to treat it as such. So this year when you take to the tinsel, use your noggin and wear a helmet. A bike helmet should be fine, but if all you have is a football helmet or one of those spiked German Pickelhaube hats, so be it, strap that sucker on.

Image by Ben Wellington via Wordle

And if the numbers in the New Yorker piece aren’t enough to get you in protective headgear this Noel, Wellington, who runs a local, data-driven blog called I Quant NY, has created a wordcloud visualization of the holiday carnage, giving you an idea of the kind of fates that lie in store for those who don’t armor up to hang the mistletoe. Or alternatively, think of it this way: Since the average cost of an ER visit is about $1,000, consider that Christmas decorating is costing Americans somewhere around 15 million dollars every year in medical costs. Is that the kind of problem you want to be a part of? So if you don’t want to spend your holiday in a body cast, sipping your wassail through a straw, remember that despite the cheery trappings, this time of year is a harrowing gauntlet of danger, and get yourself a good, sturdy Christmas helmet.


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