Christmas lights add sparkle but be aware

Light up safely this holiday season to avoid shocking surprises, both indoors or outdoors.

  • Nov. 19, 2014 3:00 p.m.

Everyone loves decorating for the holidays, but there are a number of safety tips to keep in mind when lighting up your home. Test your knowledge with the following statements and learn to separate fact from fiction when buying and installing lights:

Christmas lights

• Fact or Fiction: All holiday lights can be used indoors and outdoors.

Fiction: Lights are specifically rated for either indoor or outdoor use. Look for this information on the package, and check for a recognized certification mark before you buy. The same is true for extension cords.

• Fact or Fiction: Outdoor lights can be plugged into any type of outlet.

Fiction: If you’re installing lights outside, be sure your outlets are equipped with ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI). GFCIs protect you from an electric shock wherever you use electrical products in damp and wet conditions.

• Fact or Fiction: You should always look up and look out when stringing lights outside.

Fact: Before you start, take a walk around your property and be aware of any overhead powerlines. Keep your ladder a safe distance away – at least three metres. You could be electrocuted even if you don’t touch the wire. Use the proper clips to secure lights and decorations, since nails and staples can damage the cords.

Light up safely this holiday season to avoid shocking surprises, both indoors or outdoors. Additional guidance and information is available online at


The warm glow of holiday lights evokes cherished memories, but how many of us know the history behind how this tradition came to be such a central part of the festive season?

To illuminate your conversations this year, here are some little-known facts about holiday lights:

1. The practice of using electric lights on Christmas trees started in 1895 in the United States, as an alternative to candles. Before that, people would balance candles on tree branches, a tradition that led to many home fires.

2. Like any new technology, holiday lights were so expensive when first introduced that few people could afford them. According to American historians Bill and George Nelson, in the early 1900s families rented their lights rather than buying them outright.

3. The Nelson brothers’ research reveals that outdoor holiday lights were first introduced in 1927, but they were small, dangerous and not properly designed for the elements. Today, a rigorous certification process ensures such products meet safety standards.

4. Launched in 1985 in the national capital region as a way to liven up the darkest of winter days, Christmas Lights across Canada is now a popular event in numerous cities and towns from coast to coast. Held this year from December 3 to January 7, more than 300,000 dazzling lights will glow throughout downtown Ottawa.

5. Despite what some in your neighbourhood might do, holiday lights aren’t meant for year-round use. The long, cold winter can cause cords to crack and lead to a shock or fire. Remember to store them away after the holidays.


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