KARACHI: Religion knows no boundaries, especially if its trappings are made in China as Christians in Karachi know all too well. And there is no better place to shop for them than at Bohri Bazaar, which is flooded these days with Christmas decorations, artificial trees, fairy lights, felt stockings and overly creative Santa hats.
“All of this comes from China,” says shopkeeper Khursheed Ahmed, as he points out the artificial Christmas trees he is selling.
The tallest tree costs Rs6,000 and the cheapest, shortest one goes for Rs200. “They are as reliable as anything else that is made in China,” he quips. But then, they can’t be expected to have a long life.
They need to only last a week or two. It’s almost a good thing they don’t survive till the next year; shopping for them is half the fun.
Shops begin stocking Christmas decorations in the last week of November and owners say that sales stay brisk through December with momentum picking up between December 21 and 22. While some customers are getting their shopping done early, others will wait till the last minute.
But as Christmas approaches, the cost of decorations will go up as well. “We’ll sell this tree for up to Rs6,500 to Rs7,000 around Christmas,” Ahmed told The Express Tribune.
According to him, earlier on the trees were made in Pakistan, with wood from the same trees that provide fodder for buffaloes.
Now all the trees come from China and shopkeepers buy them at the wholesale market. “While we’ll continue to restock these trees, they are only available in limited quantity,” he warns. Profit margins appear to have dropped because of higher costs. Irshad, whose shop has been stocking Christmas decorations for over 35 years now, says, “There has been at least a 50 per cent drop in profits. Look at how things are. High prices have ruined people - if they were buying 1,000 rupees worth of decorations before, now they get fewer things for that amount.”
According to Irshad, some decorations also come from Dubai, and other basic items such as banners made out of coloured foil paper, are still produced in Pakistan.
What happens once Christmas ends? Irshad says he will go back to selling decorations for “Happy birthdays!” and weddings. Definitely not the right spirit.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 14th, 2010.