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, along with other hazards around the house the rest of the year. 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.