With the world putting finishing touches on Christmas trees, Santa’s workshop will be getting paid its monthly wages. With red paint splattered all across the room, it is clear what the making of Christmas looks like. However, the actual Santa’s workshop isn’t at the North Pole — it’s in the Chinese city of Yiwu.
While the twinkle-eyed among us would like to believe that Christmas is made by rosy-cheeked elves hammering away in a snow-bound log cabin somewhere in the Arctic Circle, in all actuality, the majority of the Christmas decorations originate from Yiwu, 300 kilometers south of Shanghai. Incidentally, the residents of Yiwu have never seen an actual live pine tree, or witnessed a single falling snowflake. However, more than 60 percent of the world’s baubles, tinsel, and flashing LED lights originate from here.
Unofficially labeled as “China’s Christmas Village,” Yiwu is home to over 600 factories that collectively churn out over 60 percent of all the world’s Christmas decorations and accessories, from glowing fibre-optic trees to felt Santa hats. The laborers who toil in these factories aren’t some happy-go-lucky elves, but are mostly migrant laborers, working 12 hours a day. These workers stand to make a maximum of $470 (£300) per month, and most of them haven’t the faintest of idea about what Christmas is and what it stands for, reported Sina.
Guessing about the celebration that has already engulfed the world, 19-years-old Wei, a worker who came to Yiwu from rural Guizhou province, this year said, “Maybe it’s like [Chinese] New Year for foreigners.”
About 62,000 booths tightly crammed in the tiny space represent the world’s back alley, where Christmas is sold at wholesale rates. There are whole streets in the labyrinthine complex devoted to artificial flowers and inflatable toys, then come umbrellas and anoraks, plastic buckets and clocks. The complex was declared by the UN to be the “largest small commodity wholesale market in the world.” Interestingly the scale of the operation necessitates a kind of urban plan that has this festival of commerce organized into five different districts. Christmas is found in District Two.
Despite the mind-boggle scale of operations, Yiwu is steadily losing business to internet giants like Alibaba and Made in China. Alibaba, one of the fastest growing business-to-business portals, offers a staggering stockpile of 1.4 million different Christmas decorations. Yiwu can muster up just 400,000.
Nonetheless, the tiny town of Christmas is now targeting the lower end of the market, where the festival of Commerce, is just being freshly discovered. According to Cai Qingliang, vice chairman of the Yiwu Christmas Products Industry Association, domestic appetite is on the rise, as China embraces the annual festival of Mammon. Interestingly, Christmas and Santa Clause is now better known to most Chinese people than Jesus, reported the Economist.
[Image Credit | Imaginechina/Rex, China Daily/Reuters, Dan Williams/Unknown Fields]