For toy and gift manufacturers in China, Santa Claus has come a little earlier this year, and bringing more generous presents than previous years too.
"Our previous Christmas seasons began in summer and ended in September," said general manager Huang Dazhi, pointing to the busy production line in his Guangzhou-based Jetta China Industries Co. Ltd, one of the world's largest toy producers.
"Our orders from the United States kept pouring in from late November this year," Huang said.
Orders from overseas are mainly for Christmas color lights, trees, decorations, plastic angels, Santa Claus figures and reindeer models.
Market analysts said China's toys and gifts manufacturers had been scared by the global outbreak of SARS and the war in Iraq this year.
"Many companies dismissed most of their workers and even stopped operation because they failed to receive orders at the beginning of the year from overseas," said Zeng Ruicheng, executive director of the Guangdong Provincial Toys Association.
Li Yun, 25, was one of the migrant workers dismissed by her factory in Guangdong.
"I was a little worried then as my fellow villagers who work inZhejiang Province called me and said the situation there was not as good as before," said Li, who has been packing Christmas decorations for five years in a little factory in Guangdong.
Li chose to stay in Guangdong and found another job in another factory.
Huang said China toys producers' advantages in low labor costs, quality improvement and easier access to global information were more important to help them withstand challenges.
"We intensified our information releases through the Internet and sent more samples overseas," Huang said, "our work paid off and we got our first order in July."
"Since then orders have exceeded our production capacity," he said.
China exported some 1.5 billion US dollars worth of Christmas products overseas in the first 10 months of 2003, with half going to the United States, according to the General Administration of Customs.
"Few people knew about Christmas in China in the 1980s when it was treated with an ideological and religious perspective of an earlier era," said Zeng Ruicheng.
"It is totally incredible for Chinese toys producers to compete and seize such a great piece of the Christmas market within 20 years of development," he said.