To some, November 11 is just an average day. But if you are in China, 11/11 is so much more: it is Singles’ Day! Why do single people get their own holiday? Why on November 11? How did it become the biggest shopping holiday in the world? These answers to these questions and more lie buried deep in history…
The Origins of Chinese Singles' Day
According to legend, Chinese Singles' Day began in 1993 in a Nanjing University dorm room. Four single college guys sat brainstorming how to overcome the monotony of singlehood, and WHAM!
Chinese Singles' Day was born. The group chose the date 11/11 because it consisted of four 1's—that is, four singles.
Since that fateful day, Singles' Day has grown and morphed, taking on many incarnations along the way. Initially, 11/11 was a popular time for single people to meet and party together in a celebration of singlehood.
It grew from being celebrated mostly by men to being celebrated by both sexes. 11/11 became a popular date for weddings as well. However, the last decade has seen Chinese Singles' Day take on almost a completely new identity: the largest online AND offline shopping day in the world!
In what was undeniably a brilliant marketing move, in 2012 Alibaba trademarked the phrase "双十一 shuāng shíyī" (Double Eleven). The world as we knew it would never be the same.
Singles' Day: The Biggest Shopping Day in China
Over the last several years, Singles' Day sales on online platforms exploded, surpassing the US's Black Friday and Cyber Monday four-fold. Moreover, in 2017 Alibaba broke the world record for most transactions in 24 hours!
If that isn't enough, 2020 was the first year that Alibaba and competitor JD ran Singles' Day promotions for 11 days straight (Nov 1-11), breaking all sorts of records along the way.
Useful Singles' Day Phrases
Single Sticks Festival
Wǒ shì dānshēn.
I am single.