What is Singles' Day?

Singles' Day is a holiday celebrated in China on November 11. Unmarried people commemorate the occasion by treating themselves to gifts and presents, leading Singles' Day to become the largest online shopping day in the world, by quite some margin.

Understanding 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.

Singles' Day has since caught on in other countries. It is now celebrated throughout Southeast Asia and some European countries, including Germany, Belgium, and the United Kingdom. Great Britain’s version was initiated by dating experts and falls on a different date: March 11.

Special Considerations

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 Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba (BABA) 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 2018, Alibaba registered $30.8 billion worth of sales across its online platforms on Singles’ Day, representing an annual growth rate of 27%.

Fast Fact: China’s Singles' Day is by far the biggest day for internet commerce, easily surpassing the combined sales tallies of both Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Singles’ Day shopping habits have even spread to the United States. In 2018, American consumers spent $1.82 billion on Nov. 11, an increase of more than 29% over the prior year.