September 23, 2020

Jingle hell: Where your Christmas baubles and santa hats are made


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By Jenni Ryall From Mashable

The real North Pole is in China.

christmas4About 300 kilometers out of Shanghai is the town of Yiwu, where 60% of the world’s Christmas decorations are made by workers in 600 factories and shipped around the globe.

Design studio Unknown Fields Division and photographer Toby Smith took a peek into the Christmas village while tracing the supply chain of the world’s consumer products across the South China sea, following cargo routes and heading inland to their production bases.

With a backing track of the Chinese version of Jingle Bells, the group document the production line behind your baubles and santa hats. Smith says although the conditions are rough, the people appear content in their work environment.

“From a health and safety perspective the exposure to harmful chemicals and solvents is disturbing,” Smith told Quartz. “I also witnessed manufacturing techniques with machines that could easily be criticized from a Western vantage point. However the social working environment, working hours and general atmosphere of the factory was actually more pleasant than I have experienced in other manufacturing sectors.”

Writer for the BBC, Tim Maughan, who travelled to Yiwu with Smith and the Unknown Fields Division team, described Yiwu as his “worst Christmas nightmare.” He details 12-hour shifts, excessive heat and hard labour in a dizzying maze of Christmas ornaments in this manufacturing hub.

“Upstairs is the plastic moulding room, mainly staffed by young men, stripped to the waist because of the heat. The air here is thick with fumes, the smell of chemicals and warm plastic,” Maughan writes. “The men feed plastic pellets from Samsung-branded sacks into machines to be melted down, and then pressed into moulds to make toy snowmen and Father Christmases. It’s repetitive, and potentially dangerous, as the workers must constantly reach inside the large presses.”

Christmas in Yiwu starts in September, Maughan comments. The rest of the year is taken up with Halloween, Valentine’s Day and Easter. Hundreds of production lines cater to our need for disposable crap to excessively decorate our homes with holiday cheer.

Yiwu is where the elves don’t get Christmas off.


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