Christmas is a time of generosity and joy. Americans love to decorate, put up lights, and celebrate with decadence. Americans also love to save money, and cheaply made Christmas decorations abound. Just walk into any Target, Michael’s, Dollar Store, Wal-Mart, Kmart, etc., and you will be bombarded with trinkets of Santa and his reindeer, stockings, Christmas trees, etc. Just where do all these decorations come from? China of course!
The Guardian reports:
The likelihood is that most of those baubles, tinsel and flashing LED lights you’ve draped liberally around your house came from Yiwu, 300km south of Shanghai – where there’s not a (real) pine tree nor (natural) snowflake in sight.
Christened “China’s Christmas village”, Yiwu is home to 600 factories that collectively churn out over 60% of all the world’s Christmas decorations and accessories, from glowing fibre-optic trees to felt Santa hats. The “elves” that staff these factories are mainly migrant labourers, working 12 hours a day for a maximum of £200 to £300 a month – and it turns out they’re not entirely sure what Christmas is.
When I was a child, I made Christmas decorations at school and in ceramics class. My grandmother made ornaments. These childhood decorations were the kind of thing to be saved, to be taken out each year, to be passed on to grandchildren. You think twice before donating handmade items with nostalgic holiday memories to a thrift store.
There is not connection to cheap, Chinese plastic goods. They are disposable, and in fact thrift stores locally are no longer accepting Christmas decorations. How many of these decorations made in Yiwu will last beyond this holiday season?
I am not a Grinch, at least I don’t think I am, but I am concerned about the effects of Christmas decadence on those who actually make the goods we consume. The photos of their working conditions are alarming. I am sure they are thankful for the jobs, but at what point to we truly reflect on global consumerism honestly and quit buying on a whim?