What is Singles Day? Each year, I am asked why I generally am unavailable for meetings and groups on November 11th. So I thought today, I would explain it in a bit more detail for my US clients. Today is one of the busiest days of the year for many of my overseas clients, and as result, I am usually rendering support most of the day and night before.
Singles Day, also formerly known as Bachelors Day, is celebrated on November 11th each year. It is a Chinese commercial holiday that helps single people show their pride in being single – kind of a “anti-Valentines Day”. It started as a paean to being single, where solo students at China’s Nanjing University chose November 11 (because 11/11 looks like a group of sticks) to celebrate, rather than lament being partnerless. It quickly grew into a fun, unofficial holiday in which single people across China treat themselves to nice dinners and splurge on goods they wouldn’t otherwise buy for themselves.
From those humble roots, Singles Day has become the single most lucrative online shopping holiday in the world. During 2020’s Singles’ Day, Alibaba and e-commerce giant JD.com set records, racking up around $155 billion in sales across their platforms, easily surpassing Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined.
In the first hour alone, nearly 330,000 items were sold on Alibaba with shoppers eager to nab deals on apartments, luxury bags, appliances, daily necessities, and cars.
The HISTORY OF SINGLES DAY
On 11/11/1993 a group of lonely, yet positive, students at Nanjing University decided that instead of lamenting their lack of a significant other, that they would instead celebrate being single. The reasoning? 11/11 looks like four, single sticks, strung together trying to make the most out of their time.
The anti-Valentine’s Day celebration of singledom caught on and spread across universities throughout China, generally characterized by fun, harmless events. For example, one student reserved every other seat in a movie theater, prohibiting couples from sitting next to each other during a screening of Beijing Love Story, an aptly named romantic film.
That level of mischief is the most that holiday’s celebration extends into anti-couples. For the most part, the holiday is a shopping holiday, thanks in part to Alibaba CEO Daniel Zhang, who created the first Singles Day sale in 2009, sparking a trend that has surpassed Cyber Monday in single-day transactions.
While the holiday may have gone commercial, the celebrations and theme are still in line with its founding – to celebrate who you are, your friends, and your loved ones, regardless of what your relationship status is.
SINGLES DAY TRADITIONS
Singles Day – similar to Cyber Monday or Black Friday – is a shopping holiday. While it initially started as a celebration of oneself and love of oneself, it has evolved into a chance for individuals to treat themselves to goods and fun products.
Some traditions still remain – like taking yourself out for dinner, taking yourself out to the movies, sheepishly ruining dates, going on “dates” with your other single friends to celebrate independence and self-love. As it grew, and Alibaba got more involved, it became a much more consumer-oriented holiday.
Now, traditionally, people buy things on Singles Day, which is part of how it’s become the biggest online shopping day of the year.