Quick, picture Santa's workshop. Industrious elves at work as a gentle snow falls outside? That's not quite the image at a place the Guardian calls "the real Santa's workshop," the city of Yiwu, China. Think 600 factories filled with migrant laborers armed with glue guns busily making snowflake ornaments, stockings, miniature Christmas trees, tinsel, blinking lights, and pretty much any holiday decoration you can imagine. China's state-run news agency has estimated that 60% of the world's Christmas paraphernalia comes from Yiwu, hence the unofficial nickname "Christmas village."
Despite the volume of stuff being churned out, this is still pretty much a human enterprise rather than an automated one, notes Quartz, which talks to a photographer who recently traveled to the city. "From a health and safety perspective, the exposure to harmful chemicals and solvents is disturbing,” says Toby Smith. (The Guardian speaks to workers who go through 10 breathing masks a day and spend their shift covered in red powder, all for about $450 a month, maximum.) But Smith adds that it wasn't all bad. “The social working environment, working hours, and general atmosphere of the factory was actually more pleasant than I have experienced in other manufacturing sectors.”