I don’t know about you, but I grew up with parents who liked to scare the bejeezus out of us to keep us safe—and the holidays were no exception. As a kid, I got drunk on the dazzling sparkle and promise of the season: Santa, sugar cookies, music, and all the twinkly, twinkly lights. There wasn’t any room in my heart, soul, or eyes for danger.
But that didn’t stop my folks.
According to them, everything that made the holiday so spectacular was likely to kill us if we weren’t careful. And it all started with the tree and those strings of sparkling lights. We were staunch purists when it came to the tree:
It had to be real.
It had to make the house smell like a forest.
It had to leave a neverending blanket of needles in its wake.
It had to be at risk of bursting into flames at any moment.
That last one may seem alarmist, and I assure you that it is. But when you still believe it’s okay for some large, strange man to break into your house once a year, you can’t discern a credible threat from an exaggerated one.
Holiday Threat Number One: A Dry Tree
Watering the tree was a constant point of concern—and conversation. My brothers and I got a barrage of lectures about the importance of keeping that red metal bowl the tree was screwed into full of H2O. And then we got nonstop reminders.
“If the tree runs out of water it will dry out and burst into flames.”
“Is the tree running out of water? If it does, it will dry out and burst into flames.”
“Do those needles look dry? Don’t come crying to me when that tree dries out and bursts into flames!”
Holiday Threat Number Two: Left-On Lights
The second point of nonstop worry was the lights I loved so much. They were the instrument of destruction that would ignite the dried-out tree and make it burst into flames. They needed to be carefully plugged in and then unplugged again and again—whenever we left the house, went to bed, or closed our eyes for too long.
Under no circumstances were those lights to shine and blink and twinkle unsupervised. Which made me sad, because I loved driving by all the houses with trees ablaze (not literally) in the front window. I wanted to come home and be greeted by a luminous, shimmering vision in evergreen and tinsel.
But it was not to be.
A Holiday Miracle: Tech-ing the Halls
Imagine my delight (decades later) at the discovery of gizmos and gadgets that could transform my deathtrap of a holiday into everything I’d always wanted—with little to no risk of anything bursting into flames.
Here are some high-tech holiday hacks I’ve discovered that make the little girl inside of me dance with more joie de vivre than the Sugar Plum Fairy.
Keep the Tree from Bursting into Flames with These Helpers
Let the sound of “Jingle Bells” tell you when it’s time to give the tree a drink. No need to threaten bursting or flames of any kind. This nifty nanny also keeps you from overfilling the tree (and drenching those pretty gifts) with a chime that warns you to stop pouring. Plus, a light sensor tells the nanny when you’ve settled your head for the night and keeps it quiet until morning
Tap into some elf magic to keep your tree full of H20.
The holidays are overrun with creepy elves watching our every move, so why not put one to work monitoring the tree’s water level? This green guy attaches to your tree stand and lets you know when the water gets low. In keeping with the creepy elf schtick, you’ll get both an audible “Evergreen Elf here, out of water” message and a visual cue courtesy of the light-up tree on his belly.
Come home to an irresponsibly bright holiday display of lights that would bring a tear to Clark Griswold’s eye. This smart plug works with an app and other smart home devices (like Amazon Alexa) to let you control your lights from anywhere. You can save electricity while you’re at work or running errands, and then swipe your finger to fire up the festive display when you’re on your way home.
Kick it up a notch with these Bluetooth lights that give you more than remote control. You can use the Pulse app to set these babies to music. Use them outdoors to become the envy of the block or bring them inside and use the Disco Function to throw the holiday party of the season
All I wanted when I was a bright-eyed youngster was a holiday experience that wasn’t threatening to end me. Now my grownup holiday wish list is loaded with smart devices that can do everything from keeping the tree nice and hydrated to turning the lights on and off at will. Whether or not you had an alarmist upbringing, you can make your holiday more magical (and a heck of a lot safer) by incorporating the latest smart home tech.
Rebecca is the lead safety reporter and in-house expert for SafeWise.com. She has been a journalist and blogger for over 25 years, with a focus on home and community safety for the past six. Rebecca spends dozens of hours every month testing and evaluating security products and strategies. Her safety expertise is sought after by publications, broadcast journalists, non-profit organizations, podcasts, and more. You can find her work and contributions in places like TechCrunch, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, HGTV, MSN, and an ever-growing library of radio and TV clips. Learn more