Yiwu: The Chinese city where it's Christmas every day

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[A look into the world of plastic Christmas trees and metallic tinsel in China, where 60 percent of decorations are made. "Are there no workhouses?" Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol *RON*]

Dave Tacon, Al Jazeera, 19 Dec 2016

Christmas trees at a stall in the Festival Arts section of Arts of Crafts inside the Yiwu International Trade Market - the world's largest wholesale market for small commodities. These plastic trees are made locally at the Sinte An factory. [Dave Tacon/Al Jazeera]
Yiwu, China - China is expected to have the world's largest Christian community in the world within two decades, although Christmas remains a minor festival in the secular country. However, when it comes to commerce, the country's economy thrives on the holiday seasons.

Around 60 percent of the world's Christmas decorations come from factories surrounding Yiwu, in Zhejiang Province, a little more than an hour from Shanghai on the country's high-speed rail.

In the Festival Arts subdivision of the Yiwu International Trade Market, every day feels like Christmas.

Here, in what is actually only a tiny corner of the world's largest wholesale market for small commodities, aisle after aisle of large cubicles display an array of holiday decorations, from Santa Claus masks to stockings, artificial Christmas trees and metallic-coloured tinsel.

These booths are mini showrooms for bulk purchase for global export.

"We sell most of our trees to the United States: gaudy ones with flashing lights," says Reng Guoan, general manager of the Sinte An Christmas tree factory, which manufactures more than a million artificial trees each year.

"The English like more traditional-style trees that aren't electric. Australians don't really buy artificial trees. They can just go out and cut one down."

The workforce dedicated to Christmas decorations in Zhejiang, China's wealthiest province, mainly consists of migrant workers from poorer areas around the country. In the dimly lit basement of the Xin Shua tinsel factory, Grandma Wang, 65, bunches reams of colourful tinsel into cardboard boxes.

"The more I pack, the more money I get," says Wang, who is paid less than a penny for each bunch of tinsel she tags together by hand. "If there's work, then we'll work every day."

"The busiest season for Christmas decorations is June and July," says Guoan. "Apart from Chinese New Year, we make trees every day - even on Christmas Day."

A worker in the area outside the Sinte An Christmas tree factory where trees are sprayed with artificial snow. The factory produces a variety of artificial trees for global export throughout the year. [Dave Tacon/Al Jazeera]

About 60 percent of the world's Christmas decorations come from factories surrounding Yiwu. [Dave Tacon/Al Jazeera]

At the Yiwu International Trade Market, Christmas decorations are available for bulk purchase all year round. [Dave Tacon/Al Jazeera]
The workforce dedicated to Christmas decorations in Zhejiang mainly consists of migrant workers from poorer areas around the country [Dave Tacon/Al Jazeera]
Jessica Zhang sits in her booth displaying Christmas tinsel in the Festival Arts section of the Yiwu International Trade Market. [Dave Tacon/Al Jazeera]
Workers sort tinsel at the Xin Shua tinsel factory. The factory makes around $4.4m-worth of tinsel each year. [Dave Tacon/Al Jazeera]
Grandma Wang, 65, at work in the Xin Shua tinsel factory. She works in tandem with her daughter-in-law, Wang Huimei, 22. They are both from Yunnan and are paid for each bunch of tinsel they pack into cardboard boxes. [Dave Tacon/Al Jazeera]
Potential customers examine Christmas decorations on offer at a booth in the Festival Arts section of the Yiwu International Trade Market. Peak season for Christmas decorations is around mid-year, during the summer months. [Dave Tacon/Al Jazeera]
A worker sprays a Christmas tree with artificial snow at the Sinte An Christmas tree factory. The only protection he has against breathing in the chemicals is a surgical mask. [Dave Tacon/Al Jazeera]
Reng Guoan, the general manager of the Sinte An Christmas tree factory, in his showroom. His company makes one million artificial trees a year, mostly for the US market. Around 100,000 trees are destined for the United Kingdom. [Dave Tacon/Al Jazeera]
Zhao Yimin, 15, makes bundles of tinsel by hand at the Xin Shua tinsel factory. She and her mother are migrant workers from Guilin. Zhao attends a middle school for migrant workers, but has worked at the tinsel factory since she was 11 years old. [Dave Tacon/Al Jazeera]
A vendor sleeps behind a desk in a stall of Christmas decorations inside the Festival Arts section of the Yiwu International Trade Market. Christmas decorations are available year round for bulk purchase, apart from over the Chinese New Year. [Dave Tacon/Al Jazeera]

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