By Michael Evans
Amid reports of declining sales of Chinese-made artificial Christmas trees, the country’s manufacturers have managed to secure one very important customer: the little town of Bethlehem.
The city’s Christmas tree was officially unveiled last Thursday at a lighting ceremony outside the Church of the Nativity. A report the next day from China’s state news agency Xinhua revealed that the tree had come from Zhejiang province.
A major manufacturing hub, Zhejiang has been called the “Christmas ornament capital of the world.”
Standing at a height of 15 meters and weighing over 5 tons, this year’s tree is the largest ever to be displayed in Bethlehem’s Manger Square, Xinhua reported.
The tree was donated by Nicholas Gan Wati, a Bethlehem native currently in China. In an interview with the Chinese news agency, he said that Bethlehem’s mayor had originally planned to use a natural tree that had been displayed in past years.
But Gan Wati said he chose to purchase a taller artificial tree whose height was more suitable to Bethlehem’s special status.
The tree and its ornaments were bought for approximately US $90,000, and transporting them from China to Bethlehem took almost one month, Xinhua said.
China produces almost 90 percent of the world’s plastic Christmas trees, according to the China Daily. But sales have declined slightly in the past year, as American and European consumers cut back on holiday purchases. The China Daily reported last Friday that manufacturers in the southern province of Guangdong see little hope of improved prospects in the next year.
“We are already experiencing the effects of the economic crisis,” the manager one artificial tree maker told the newspaper. “Things are probably going to worsen for our industry.”