Dangers of the Christmas Table

In the November 1927 issue of Good Housekeeping Miss A. Gardyne suggests decorating a Christmas table for children. Most elements of it seem awfully jolly and fun (to use the language of the time), but to a Health and Safety Inspector of 2017 some features would be regarded as positively dangerous.

Firstly, take the paper garlands. I wouldn’t be too sure, Miss Gardyne, that garlands hung near a naked flame (ie a candle or open fire ) would not ‘ burst into flame if lighted ‘.Secondly, look at the dead stalks of hemlock that you’ve just brought into the dining room, doubtless after a long walk in the countryside. Hemlock ( conium maculatum ) is one of the most poisonous wild plants. Even when dried the coniine present in the stalks, roots and seeds is a powerful neurotoxin that even in small doses can paralyse the respiratory muscles and result in death if untreated. A child is especially vulnerable. Then, what’s with ‘the strips of lead ‘that you propose using. Lead is extremely toxic, either in the form of a metal or as a salt. We’ve heard of teething babies being poisoned by gnawing lead paint on their prams or cots, and you’re advocating the use of strips of the deadly metal half an inch wide! Both children and adults are known to lick their fingers without thinking. Certainly all medical professionals would demand that anyone handling lead should wash their hands afterwards. Alum too is slightly toxic if ingested.

Then there are the ‘fairy lights hidden in the mossy border ‘. One presumes that these are electric lights which could generate enough heat to ignite said moss if left unguarded for a long period. The same could be said for candles. The pointed sticks in the children’s sandwiches could be inserted into eyes by nasty little boys or girls. Artificial snowballs filled with confetti could also be aimed at eyes. What, pray, are the cases of these snowballs made of?

Apart from all these potential dangers, the rest of the children’s party seems to be

comparatively safe. But children can be a nuisance. Let’s think of the servants at this time of year and hope that the little darlings don’t upset them by their screams and shouts. [R.M.Healey]


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