What's the biggest shopping day of the year in the United States? That's easy: Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. But what's the biggest shopping day of the year in the world? Believe it or not it's today, November 11.
In Europe and the United States, November 11 commemorates the official end of World War I. In the U.S., it used to be called Armistice Day, but was renamed as Veterans Day in 1954 so as to honor all veterans.
But in China, it's something altogether different--Singles Day. Why is November 11 Singles Day? Depending which explanation you believe, it's either because the date consists of four ones (11/11) or because the number eleven resembles "bare sticks" which is Chinese slang for "bachelor." Whatever the reason for the name, the holiday originated at Nanjing University in 1993 where some bachelors who were bored with being single decided to turn the day into a celebration with various events. In Chinese society, most people are expected to marry so then as now, a lot of Singles Day events are intended to end that single-hood. For example, blind dating, karaoke, etc. Ironically, Singles Day has also become a popular wedding date.
But back to shopping. Online B2B site here, although I can't exactly recommend it. Don't say I didn't warn you.)Alibaba seized upon the holiday with its Taobao consumer retail site. It's encouraging single people to buy themselves presents on Singles Day, and encouraging--some say pressuring--its merchants to offer special Singles Day deals, much as Amazon encourages special Black Friday pricing. It's also created special Singles Day events--last year there was an extravaganza featuring Nicole Kidman, Russian tennis star Maria Sharapova, and Pharrell Williams singing a duet about "double eleven" day with Chinese-Canadian singer Kris Wu. (You can watch it
Anyhow, all of this works on China's millions of single people and they've made it the biggest shopping day of the year in the world. In 2017, Alibaba raked in $25.4 billion during its Singles Day event. A rival shopping site, JD.com hosted an eleven-day shopping event (of course) and made $19.1 billion. Add those up and it's about four times what Americans spend on Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined.
But, cyber-retail craziness aside, there's something to this concept of Singles Day. Your couples friends have Valentine's Day and anniversaries when they lavish presents upon each other and if you don't have spouse or partner and aren't dating anyone, that can leave you feeling bereft and left out. To make matters worse, if you're around that age when people generally marry and procreate, you may find yourself invited to a never-ending series of weddings and wedding showers, and then baby showers, each with an expected gift, and perhaps a gift registry. In the Sex in the City episode "A Woman's Right to Shoes," Carrie bemoans the lack of celebrations and presents in single people's lives, compared to people in couples. Samantha makes the point by organizing a party for herself and telling her various married friends (whom she's given multiple gifts to over the years) that she's expecting gifts--nice ones.
If you're single you don't have to go that far. But you do deserve a gift and who better than you to know the perfect present to give yourself? So go ahead and take advantage of Singles Day. You know you deserve it.