These Are Santa’s Elves

One of my Jobs, this time a-round, is to each Christmas season seek out and secure strange and unusual—preferably deeply disturbed—Christmas-themed doodads and gewgaws, and then gift them to various people in my karass.

This year, for instance, I found in the Dollar Store i will make toysome sadsack wooden-soldier nutcrackers, one of whom was missing not only his big hat, but also the top third of his head. I purchased this mutant, and then presented it to a person who would appreciate its macabrery. With a gift-tag announcing it to be a present from ISIL; from, yea verily, an apprentice beheader, who had not yet mastered the craft.

My daughter, in her ritual seasonal decorating of this abode, on Christmas Eve reverently placed upon the fireplace mantle a treasured wonderment: a small white Santa head on a thin black plastic stick, which, when a switch is thrown, through the entirety of his noggin begins emitting a blinding rotating light. Like a freaking police car.

Across the room from this fearsomeness, in the Manor’s built-in shrine, I placed two small ceramic Santa statues. Which appear at first glance normal enough. Until one regards them from behind. And then notes, with no little horror, that where normally would be arrayed buttocks, Santa’s red-robe-obscured flesh instead extends in an alarmingly and in truth obscenely long solid shelf in the exact same shape as the mouth of a toilet bowl.

No one Sane or Decent would design such objects. They began appearing in the stores a couple decades or so ago; knowing from the true-life documentary film Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer that all Christmas toys are assembled by wee twee elves up in Christmastown, there at the North Pole, I at first assumed these elves had lost all direction under the Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetinfluence of doses of massively Bad narcotics.

But then I noticed that the “made in” tags on these objects were reading “Made in China.” And I realized that, in fact, renegade Wrong people had cacklingly farmed out their bizarro Christmas designs to the people of the Middle Kingdom.

I oft wondered, and do to this day, what they thought, the Chinese, building such strangeness, for export to white people. Presumably, that in desiring such things, it would probably be best, for the planet all around, if said white people were all placed in a Cage.

I still don’t know what they think, the Chinese, about building such bizarreness, for obvious and probably dangerous bozos, intent on Christmasing, there across the great water. But I do now know, thanks to the BBC, that Christmastown has, alas, closed down, up at the North Pole, having been removed bodily to the Chinese city of Yiwu, where today well over 60% of all Christmasness is made.

Christmas is made in Yiwu. That tree lighting up your lounge. Those decorations hanging from the ceiling. That novelty stocking filler you bought for your child.

There is in Yiwu a mammoth trade-mart, bursting with all things Christmas. “It currently covers an area of four million sq m, with 62,000 booths inside . . . It is estimated to have an incredible 40,000 visitors every day, 5,000 of whom are said to be buyers from foreign countries.”

Yiwu market is, for the large part, strictly wholesale. Each of the 62,000 booths, all identically sized 2.5m by 2.5m cubes, is a showroom for an individual company or factory. The market is less a shopping mall than a vast, endless trade show, built builkdfor those most important of middlemen: retail buyers, who flock here from across China and the rest of the world to negotiate deals on shipping containers full of cheap products to fill the shelves of stores back home[.] It is the physical manifestation of a vast invisible network that supplies many of the inexpensive goods we all buy in the West and worldwide . . . .

China is the global leader in creating plastic junk, and Yiwu market is its showroom.

And for that reason, there’s one thing that Yiwu excels at more than anything: Christmas. Forget the North Pole, forget Santa’s workshop. In 2012 Yiwu and the surrounding region had 750 companies making Christmas decorations and other festive items[.]

The BBC people wished to venture next to the very heart of darkness of Christmas: a wellspring from whence the ocean of yuletide plastic junk doth flow. And so they journeyed to the “Yiwu Hangtian Arts and Crafts Co, Ltd, a small company about 30 minutes drive outside the city. It would prove to be the most bewildering and unsettling factory we’d visit in China.”

One woman folds elaborate ribbons from plastic sheeting, whilst the woman next to her glues them on to “Merry Christmas” signs covered in red glitter paint. A young boy in a stained apron, who looks to be barely a teenager, is hand-painting holly berries red. And in a side room a man sits in front of a huge fan as he dips metal wires into a bucket of unidentified boiling liquid, bending them while they’re hot into curved headbands for novelty reindeer antlers.

Everywhere the fruits of their labour surround them; thousands of Christmas ornaments and novelties constantly being piled into cardboard boxes and plastic crates faster than they can be moved out, spilling on to the floor and towering above the workers.

In the next room the fabric products are made; again about two dozen women sit at rows of sewing machines. It’s hot and all you can hear is the constant hum of the machines as they stitch together hats, Christmas stockings, and festive bunting. The red and buildwhite Santa hat—the kind you wear at office parties—that you buy for a few pounds and then throw away by New Year’s Eve. I see it being made here. I watch a girl sew white fur trim on to red felt at the rate of about two hats a minute, and as she finishes each one she simply pushes them off the front of her desk where they fall, silently, onto an ever-increasing pile on the floor.

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. 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 . . . .

[T]he real secret of China’s manufacturing success—keeping labour costs so low that making things by hand is cheaper than using machines. I was never given a definite figure, but I’m told by one of the factory managers that employees here are paid somewhere between $200 and $300 (£130 to £190) a month to work 12-hour-plus shifts, six days a week . . . .

We’re told that by the end of September, Christmas manufacturing will have stopped, and the factory will have switched to making Easter and Valentine’s Day gifts and trinkets. After that, it’s Halloween decorations for the lucrative American market. Then, by late spring, it’s Christmas time again. As long as the world wants to celebrate whatever and whenever event it cares to choose, China will be there to be its ultimate party supplier.

But not forever. At some point, and no doubt fairly soon, the Chinese will become more consumers, than suppliers. And then Christmas shall must needs come from somewhere else. Where? Who knows? Perhaps, after the Middle Kingdom, Middle Earth. And, this time, with Real, Magic.


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When I Worked

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