Discover Yiwu, China’s Christmas Village

A worker cutting fake
A worker cutting fake "branches" into pieces in Sun Xudan's artificial Christmas tree factory in Yiwu. Photo credit JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images.

Are you a fan of Christmas decorations, that assortment of shiny baubles, LED lights, plastic stars, and gilded trinkets that has taken over your house in the last few weeks? Well, there is a great chance that some of them were made in Yiwu, the Chinese village where 60 percent of these items are produced, the Guardian reports.

Also known as “China’s Christmas Village”, this town, located 300 kilometers south of Shanghai, is home to 600 factories where Chinese laborers, and not elves, churn out the decorations all year long.

The Guardian reports that the working conditions of these mostly migrant laborers, some of whom don’t know what Christmas stands for, leave a lot to be desired: their long 12-hour working days only earn them wages ranging from €200 to €300 a month.

Photographs of these winter-in-wonderland factories are rather disturbing, with their all-red working spaces vaguely redolent of a gory murder scene, or, for the more arty, Cildo Meireles’ installation Red Shift (1967–84).

Recent reports show that the mighty factory compound—which the UN declared “the largest small commodity wholesale market in the world”—is losing business to Internet-based companies. But, despite the working conditions and the troubling business predictions, some employees at Yiwu manage to keep looking on the bright side.

“Sitting here every day, being able to look at all these beautiful decorations, is really great for your mood,” a sales representative from Yiwu market told the Guardian. A true Christmas elf’s spirit, if ever there were one.

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