What is Singles' Day? Only the biggest shopping day in the entire year. If you thought that was Black Friday, you were wrong. Last year, Singles' Day accounted for $31 billion in retail commerce--more than the five days from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday combined. This year, Alibaba alone saw $12 billion in retail purchases in the first hour of Singles' Day. That's up 22 percent from last year. In fact, the Chinese e-commerce giant says its sales surpassed $1 billion within the first eight seconds of Singles' Day. Increasingly, U.S. retailers are offering great deals as well.

In the U.S., November 11 is known as Veterans Day and in Europe as Armistice Day or simply November 11--a day that is commemorated because in 1918 it marked the official end of World War I. But 11/11 is also something much simpler--a day with a lot of the number 1 in it. Thus it was that some lonely single guys at China's Nanjing University decreed that November 11 would be Singles' Day, a holiday devoted to celebrations of and activities for single people. (An alternative explanation is that the number 11 resembles "bare sticks," Chinese slang for "bachelor.")

Whatever its origin, the holiday's popularity grew, perhaps as a counter to Chinese society's focus on marriage and child-rearing. Eventually--and oddly--it became a highly desired wedding date. At the same time, commerce got involved, especially Alibaba, via its retail site Taobao. Taobao treats Singles' Day much the way Amazon treats Prime Day--as a time to offer deep discounts and to encourage others who sell on its site to do the same. Amazon featured Taylor Swift at its Prime Day Concert in July, so it's only natural that Alibaba also included a Taylor Swift performance in its Singles' Day celebration this year. (Two years ago, Pharrell Williams and Chinese Canadian rapper Kris Wu collaborated on an embarrassingly awful song about "Double 11 Day.")

But don't dismiss Singles' Day as a purely Chinese bit of madness. Increasingly, American retailers are joining in, offering special November 11 discounts too. In some cases, these are called Veterans Day discounts or even "early Black Friday" discounts; in other cases, they're called Singles' Day discounts just as they are in China. Whatever they're called, there are some nice deals out there--this might just be a great day to start your holiday shopping if you haven't already. Business Insider has compiled a comprehensive list. Here are a few of the best deals:

  • Current and former military members can get a year of Amazon Prime membership at the good old price of $79 in a five-day deal that ends today.
  • Bed Bath & Beyond is offering up to 40 percent off.
  • Sustainable cashmere company Naadam will give you 30 percent off your whole order today only with the code ELEVEN11.