What is Singles' Day

Singles' Day is a holiday celebrated in China on November 11. It commemorates unmarried people, who treat themselves to gifts and presents on this day.

BREAKING DOWN Singles' Day

Singles' Day always falls on November 11 because the date 11/11 represents four ones, or four singles, standing together. The name literally translates as "single sticks holiday."

Originally called "Bachelor's Day," the celebration began among students at China's Nanjing University around 1993 as a sort of anti-Valentine's Day. The most widely accepted theory is that four male students of Nanjing University's Mingcaowuzhu ("All single men") dorm discussed how they could break away from the monotony of having no significant other, and agreed that November 11 would be a day of events and celebrations in honor of being single. These activities spread through the university and eventually to other universities, appealing to both men and women (hence, the name change). 

Interestingly, Singles' Day now serves as an occasion for single people to meet, with parties and other social gatherings organized; it's a popular date for weddings as well. On the date, the Chinese media discusses and covers love-related issues and relationship topics.

The day is now observed outside of China, especially in Southeast Asia and Germany.

Singles' Day and Business

Although not an officially recognized public holiday in China, Singles' Day has become the largest online shopping day in the world. The holiday became a major commercial event in China during the first decade of the 21st century when the Chinese ecommerce giant Alibaba offered deeply discounted merchandise on its platform for 24 hours, starting at midnight on Nov. 11, 2009.

Since then, Singles' Day has become a super shopping day, similar to the post-Thanksgiving Black Friday and Cyber Monday in the U.S. In 2017, consumers spent a record 168.2 billion yuan, approximately $25.3 billion (U.S. dollars) in Singles' Day sales. Alibaba's mobile wallet app Alipay alone processed a total of 1.48 billion transactions.