Also known as
annually on November 11th (since 1993)
Students at Nanjing University in 1993
Singles' Day, also known as Singles Day, Bachelors' Day, or Guanggun Jie, Chinese for "Single Sticks Holiday" or "Bare Sticks Holiday," is an unofficial Chinese holiday that celebrates pride in being single. The date of the holiday, November 11, has four ones in it (11/11). The number one may represent being alone, and the four ones in the date may represent four single people. Over time, the holiday has expanded from solely being about singleness, to become the largest shopping day in the world.
Singles' Day began at Nanjing University in Nanjing, China, in 1993. The most common story about how it got its start says that four male students at the university's Mingcaowuzhu ("All single men") dorm decided they would find a way to make being single a bit more exciting and resolved to create a celebration in honor of singleness. One similar story says that the four students played Mahjong from 11 am to 11 pm on the day, and by some coincidence, the "four columns card" kept coming up as the winning card. Afterward, they decided to commemorate this occurrence by calling the day Singles' Day.
The day was first celebrated mainly by young men, and was often called "Bachelors' Day." One of the reasons for this may have been the gender imbalance in China, where there are many more men than women, leading to more single men. Singles' Day spread to other universities in Nanjing during the 1990s, and both males and females began celebrating it. It eventually spread beyond the city, to all of China, and then around the world. Social media has played a role in its continued growth. Besides China, it is most celebrated in Southeast Asia.
From its beginnings, the day focused on celebrating being single. On the morning of the day, many single people eat four youtiao—deep-fried dough sticks—which represent the four "ones" of the date. They also eat one baozi—a steamed stuffed bun—which represents the middle dot when the date is written as 11.11. Singles often meet and celebrate by having dinner together or having parties. Some universities organize events to bring single people together. Ironically, the day has also been used to celebrate relationships or to find a partner. Sometimes singles hold blind date parties, and many people in China get married on the day. Those in relationships sometimes say the one represents that their partner is the only one, not that they are alone.
Today the holiday may most be associated with shopping. It is the biggest shopping day in the world, both online and offline. Billions of dollars of sales are made through Tmall and Taobao, online marketplaces that are part of China's Alibaba Group, an e-commerce company that is similar to Amazon. Alibaba became involved with the day in 2009 and started offering discounts on it, such as their "Double 11" deals. Other companies sell a great number of goods in China and around the world on the day as well. Total combined sales for the day reach about four times the amount of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. So, although the day may have been started by four guys who wanted to celebrate their singleness, the day has since transformed to also being an economic powerhouse.
How to Observe Singles' Day
Observe the day by taking pride in your singleness if you are single, or by celebrating your relationship if you are in one. The best way to start the day is by eating four youtiao and one baozi, which represent the date. If you are single, you could attend a party or dinner with other single people in honor of your singleness. If you feel it's time to find someone to change your relationship status, you could attend a blind date party. If you are already in a relationship, you could get married today or find other ways to celebrate your bond. You could also celebrate the day by shopping, either online or at brick and mortar stores. There are some Chinese companies you can purchase items from even if you aren't in China.