<\body> Stories in America: American Christmas Trees: Made in China

Monday, December 26, 2005

American Christmas Trees: Made in China

Santa's elves have left the North Pole for atheist mainland China, where they make 70 percent of the world's Christmas ornaments, tinsel, artificial trees and other decorations. According to the China General Administration of customs, China exported more than $1 billion worth of Christmas products in 2004. As is usually the case, the most telling line in the article is at the very end: "For the bulk of the toiling "elves" in southern China's factories, however, Santa Claus remains as alien as if he really were at the North Pole. Asked whether the company told its workers anything about the festival for which they spend their days and years producing baubles, Yan answers, "Christmas is not a big traditional festival here and we don't celebrate it. Our workers are mostly middle-aged women who don't need to know anything about it."
Even the White House now celebrates a "Made in China" Christmas. In 2003, seven of the trees adorning the US president's residence were manufactured in China. In fact more than two-thirds of the world's artificial Christmas trees are made in the single city of Shenzhen.

According to Xinhua, China's official news agency, more than 7,000 farmers living in Xiaoguanzhuang town in Jiangsu province
collectively manufactured some 100 million Christmas decorations for export in 2004, earning close to $48.3 million. The town now has 45 large businesses and more than 400 processing workshops producing angels, trees and reindeer.

Hotels, restaurants and shop fronts across the flashier Chinese cities are thus bedecked in wreaths and glittering Christmas trees. Usually surly salespersons in supermarkets are transformed into sexy Santa's helpers in red and white. He of Yiwu Festival Gifts says that while 10 years ago, most people in Yiwu would have been hard pressed to even say what Christmas was, today's youngsters celebrate the festival by decorating their houses and exchanging presents.


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