Need an alternative to Valentine’s Day? The Chinese calendar offers Singles Day, involving shopping, partying with friends and eating fried dough. Who’s in?
Yes, February 14 is the day single people inevitably get singled out. It even gets a bad rap for being SAD (Single Awareness Day) or a Hallmark holiday full of ooey-gooey sappy stuff only for couples.
For everyone who feels doomed to eat ice cream and endorses being SAD, China suggests a creative alternative to the ho-hum attitude toward being single. November 11 (or 11.11 as it’s commonly seen) is a celebration of singledom. In fact, Guanggun Jie (literally Bare Sticks Holiday) is a full-blown opportunity to go shopping, party with friends and eat delicious fried dough.
Start Celebrating Being Single…with Shopping?
Scarlett Johansson and Jack Ma, Chairman of Alibaba Group, attend a night gala to celebrate Singles Day online shopping festival in Shenzhen, China, November 11, 2o16. Via Getty Images.
China started celebrating singles in the 1990s. It’s a common belief that college bachelors at Nanjing University partied together on 11.11 as a lighthearted Anti-Valentine’s Day.
The modern audience doesn’t seem concerned about the origin, though. Singles Day has transformed into one of the largest shopping days on the global calendar. In one day, it has far surpassed total sales of the United States’ largest shopping days combined, according to Fortune.
Chairman of Alibaba (the US’s Amazon equivalent), Jack Ma, who’s known for his eccentric personality, used Singles Day to create a shopping experience like no other. Shoppers’ willingness to take on any task for a good deal is part of what has led to the mayhem and enormous peak in sales associated with the holiday.
Start celebrating being single by buying yourself a gift, or invest in one for a potential partner.
Girls and Guys Gone Wild
Singles Day isn’t narrowed to being alone. Quite the opposite. Seeking out a partner is part of the tradition, and the methods for doing so promise great people-watching.
Promotional opportunities in 2012 encouraged single men to jump into a river wearing only underwear (or less) for a chance to win hundreds of dollars’ worth of clothes.
Single women can be found donning wedding dresses while running down the streets of major Chinese cities.
A group of men hoping to find partners once sat on a subway with their personal information pinned to quilts they swaddled around their bodies.
A young man proposed by arranging approximately $82,000 dollars’ worth of iPhones in the shape of a heart, only to get rejected. The video got huge exposure.
Going out to find a great sale may leave you surrounded by superheroes named “Guanggun Man” trying to get a hug, or you may see bikini-clad women walking around with their contact information on signs. The now-consumer-driven holiday has become a platform for singles to go out and find other singles, in whatever way they see fit.
A couple pose for pictures after registering for marriage in Handan, north China’s Hebei Province, on Singles Day. Via Getty Images.
Side note: The odds may be in your favor on Singles Day. Studies have shown that people are more likely to get married/engaged on dates with some numerical interest, such as 11.11.
The Downside to Singles Day
The ratio of men to women in China is extremely skewed. Due to decades of the (preferably male) one-child rule, men outnumber women by nearly 20 million in China, meaning many single, straight men don’t have female partners. Singles Day has commonly been called Bachelor’s Day, an opportunity to seek out women who are available.
While they may enjoy waking up to the traditional snack of fried youtiao, a fried dough in the shape of a 1, many men are reminded of the enormous pressure to wed by a certain age on Singles Day. Very unfortunately coined the “excess people,” many men who are generally around 30 or older dive straight into careers or don’t date around but are encouraged to view marriage as a priority. Also feeling slighted are the regularly ridiculed “leftover women” who are generally educated, older, working women who are expected to either find mates or give their earnings to male relatives who need a home (which helps them in wooing women).
While shaming single people was by no means the original intention of Singles Day in China, it is a side effect of the festivities during the holiday. Not to mention, there are environmental implications for a holiday that delivers millions of packages throughout a single country.
Back to the Bright Side
While there are certainly two sides to every coin, you can’t help but appreciate that there is, in fact, a day for all the singles out there. It could mean streaking on the 11 bus, attending a blind date party, eating fried dough or getting oddball shopping deals. Seems like a not-so-bad way to celebrate singledom.