Miracle on Main Street. Dolgencorp Santa Claus, Plastic Rights Icon, Dies at 2
America’s beloved household figurine Dolgencorp Santa Claus (DSC) was found dead in Springfield, Missouri’s Noble Hill Sanitary Landfill on January 2nd, 2023. He was two years old. Dollar General (DG) distribution centers nationwide will hold vigils next week; please see your local DG for details.
DSC came from humble beginnings–another indiscernible pool of crude oil pumping through CNOOC’s Shengli Oil Field (勝利油田) underneath the Bohai Sea (渤海).1 Soon after his extraction, he moved to Zhejiang Petrochemical and underwent extensive refining, heating, cracking, blending, melting, forming, and cutting to transform into miniature plastic pellets. Mixed in with his four million relatives–all in nirvana–they were taken to a plastic extruding factory outside Yiwu International Trade City (YITC), the world’s largest small commodities market.2
Their DNA was separated, shaped, then shipped to the final incubator. Here, they entered the world in a blaze of injection-molded glory. The first person to hold him, line operator Zhang Wei (张伟), recalls: “while conducting my 1312th quality control check of the day, something shocked me out of my complacency. This Santa was different–his seam immaculate, his demeanor warm. In that moment, I knew he was destined for greater things.”
DSC’s formative days were spent in the Liáng (梁) family’s living room in Jianyang (建洋村), a rural village on the outskirts of Zhejiang (浙江省). In the evenings, the space turned into an industrial spray booth. In his memoir, ‘A National Hero,’ he relayed anecdotes from his creators, lamenting the number of facemasks they had to cycle through to ready the DSC’s for the world. Despite using PPE, they ingested toxic levels of red, white, and black paints and fibers from glitter flocking and red felt. A small price for Christmas joy.
“I remember the day the entire Liáng family came together to box us. At first, it was startling to leave the bucolic countryside for the dark city life of Yiwu,” shared DSC’s third cousin, who now splits his time between a Home Depot box in the attic and a fireplace mantel in Blacksburg, Virginia. “It was September 2022. We were fully formed, in our prime, and ready to take on the world.” The group was displayed on the second floor of YITC’s District 1, a great location at an auspicious time. Over 75% of the world’s Christmas decorations are sold from YITC, earning it the moniker ‘Christmas Village.’3 Yet, in an interview with DSC’s buyer, who introduced herself as “a seasonal sourcing representative for Dollar General Corp.,” she said the retailer singled DSC because he was “particularly charming, with no blemishes or production flaws.” Those 11 days embroiled in YITC’s capitalist pandemonium, observing around 40,000 people daily,4 helped DSC form his signature style: a soft squat, hat placed at a jaunty angle, and an open-mouthed smile of Kardashian proportions.
Soon after, the batch was repackaged and taken to the United States via a China Ocean Shipping Company container. The Santas met and befriended hundreds of other tchotchkes. Though they had different origins, seasonal values, and destinies, they formed intimate bonds in those dark quarters. DSC grew particularly close with Hippity, an Easter Bunny with long teal faux-fur, en route to Wamart’s Distribution Warehouse in Los Lunas, New Mexico. On October 27, 2022, they wed under a makeshift arc of desktop Christmas trees surrounded by friends. A Valentine’s day candy guest fondly remembers the ceremony, where several chocolate-filled toy phones self-immolated to shower the newlyweds in hard confetti. “It was a celebration of everyone’s love. We knew that once we docked, we’d likely never see each other again.” While Hippity was haunted by the specter of time, DSC was not. In the final paragraph of his memoir, he states: “I wish I hadn’t been so naive. I should’ve taken her [Hippity’s] words more seriously. Our love was so pure, so raw, that I thought no human could split us.” Three weeks later, the freighter arrived at the Port of Long Beach, California. The Valentine candy’s premonition was correct. The friends and lovers never crossed paths again.
During the BNSF train journey from California to Fulton, Missouri, DSC’s boxmates consoled him day and night. Nevertheless, he spiraled out of control. His niece intervened, warning him, “no one wants a skinny, ugly Santa. Do you know what happens to figurines like us in America?” Just before they were unloaded at Fulton’s Dollar General Distribution Center, DSC painted on his trademark smile to hide the despair inside. This period of packing, sorting, and hurtling through the giant warehouse was a blur. It wasn’t until he saw a fluorescent yellow planogram that showed his kind packaged on an anonymous store shelf alongside tinsel, hair conditioner, and plastic baseball bats that his niece’s words took effect.
During the night on December 2, 2022, DSC and several of his family members were removed from storage and placed on a Dollar General Store #74273 shelf in Branson, MO. His brother Kris Kringle, who runs a shelter for displaced toy Santas in Janesville, Wisconsin, reluctantly shares his memories: “the unspeakable violence… one moment we’re huddled up asleep, the next it’s deafening screams and human hands everywhere. I… we won’t stand for these abuses anymore. Please consider donating to Santuary 501(c)(3) to protect Santas worldwide.”
Three days later, DSC was purchased by YouTuber “KeepingItSimpleCrafts,” who live-streamed his mutilation for $4 per 1,000 views. She sutured his mouth to give him a botox-like pout, smothered his perfect skin with glow-in-the-dark paint, and reclothed him in a mandala print onesie. The video “Fast, Cheap, Easy Ways to Turn a DG Santa into a Non-Denominational Diva” garnered global attention. KeepingItSimpleCrafts was sued by Mr. Kringle for plastic rights violations, and the case escalated to the Supreme Court. It was during this contentious legal battle that DSC wrote his best-selling memoir. On January 2, 2023, he was found dead holding a photo of his estranged wife, Hippity.” Investigators are working to determine the cause of death. DSC’s sullied look has become a ubiquitous countercultural symbol of plastic liberation and global insignia in popular culture. Jeff Owens, DG’s CEO, emailed us a touching tribute: “DSC’s martyrdom will live in the annals of history. He’s offered us consumer salvation and a chance for humanity to change its destructive ways. Rest in pieces, dear friend.”
PostScript (corresponds with image)
Production - oil extraction and transformation into a thermoplastic
Small-scale manufacturing - Forming and decorating the Santas in a flexible domestic space
Wholesaling - Displaying and exporting the stock from Yiwu International Trade City
Trans-Pacific transport - China to America
See America by train - BNSF to various distribution centers
Warehousing - sorting and storing at a Dollar General distribution center
Dollar General Store #74273 - shelved and sold in the blink of an eye
Crafty Claus - Craft Santa hacks shared on Youtube
Martyrdom - Santa becomes an icon of plastic rights
- Chen Aizhu, “CNOOC’s Bohai Overtakes Daqing as China’s Largest Oil Field,” Reuters, January 10, 2022, sec. Energy, https://www.reuters.com/business/energy/cnoocs-bohai-overtakes-daqing-chinas-largest-oil-field-2022-01-10/. ↩︎
- He Shan, “Xie Gaohua: Founding Father of World’s Largest Small Commodities Market- China.org.cn,” China Internet Information Center, May 9, 2018, http://www.china.org.cn/china/2018-05/09/content_51178703.htm. ↩︎
- Krishna Swati, “Exploring Yiwu, the Chinese Town of Small Things,” Outlook India, November 5, 2022, https://www.outlookindia.com/travel/exploring-yiwu-the-chinese-town-of-small-things-news-194908. ↩︎
- Ibid. ↩︎