Barbara Demick reports for the LA Times, from Dongguan, China:
Growing up in the Chinese countryside with only an elementary school education, Yang Yanjun had never heard of Christmas until she landed a job painting pink-cheeked cherubs to decorate trees.
But Christmas proved to be a miraculous holiday that would utterly transform her life. Over a decade, she worked in factories producing ornaments and toys that foreign children were told came from Santa’s workshops. She earned up to $200 a month, unimaginable riches that allowed her to build a house for her family back home.
The financial meltdown that has thrown so many American families into crisis might be even worse on this side of the world. The precipitous drop in consumer demand has translated into a wave of factory closings that have spit millions of Chinese workers out into the ranks of the unemployed. The fallout is most obvious in Dongguan, a southern Chinese city that, despite its palm trees and sultry climate, may be the real-life North Pole.