What comes to your mind when you see the number 11.11? The answer can be anything, but you should at least probably know about Single’s Day in China.
History and Tradition
China’s Single’s Day (双十一节 or 单身节) is an annual non-official holiday celebrated on November 11 (11月11日). Because the date 11/11 resembles solitary stick figures, it has come to represent China’s singles. The holiday is believed to have started in 1993 at Nanjing University, where 4 single students played mah-jong together and had a conversation during a game on November 11. The students thought about their wishes to have girlfriends and initiated to celebrate singledom and chose November 11 as their national day. Every number 1 represented one of them.
After the students graduated, Singles’ Day began to be celebrated in several communities in southern China. The holiday eventually spread to the rest of China. Single people in China may eat 2 or 4 deep-fried breadsticks called youtiao (油条) to mark the day. Youtiao are fried dough sticks that can be sweet or savory. Because their shape is like a ‘1’, people eat them to symbolize 11/11. After the national government realized the holiday could be used for economic purposes, Singles’ Day was accepted into mainstream culture, though it is still not an official holiday.
Double 11 Shopping Spree
Due to commercial influence by China’s e-commerce giant Alibaba in 2009, the holiday has also become known as Double 11, or Shuang Shi’yi (双十一). This is because the popular holiday is observed on November 11 each year. Since then, Single’s Day has been mostly known as the year’s best online shopping day. In 2011, the event was called the Singles’ Day of the Century as it was 11/11/11.
The shopping can take a bit of planning, however. Promotional activities, announcements, and consumer activities can be announced more than a month in advance. The event helps to boost sales during the normally low season for shopping before the Lunar New Year period. There are also celebrities and television specials, adding glamor to the event. In 2016, David and Victoria Beckham made a superstar appearance at the launch of the Global Shopping Festival Countdown Gala in Shenzhen.
“I spent my night just for waiting the double 11 days at 12AM. I had been targeting a luxury clutch bag on Taobao for only 11.11 yuan from the normal price of 3000 yuan! Thousand people have booked for it. Unfortunately, the system had a bug and I failed to get my haul because this was the only one left! Many people using Taobao at that time ended up with an error.” lamented Claudia, a student at the School of Transnational Law (STL).
Many e-commerce sites such as Taobao Mall (天猫), JD.com (京东), and Suning (苏宁) have sales on this day. Many young Chinese people buy luxury items for themselves. From electronics, clothing, to health and beauty products, many goods are purchased during this holiday. This causes major Chinese and international companies to earn large profits in a single 24-hour period.
Singles’ Day has since been popularized through the internet and is now observed at several places outside of China as well. The holiday has particularly grown in Southeast Asia, Japan, and Australia.
In addition to great sales, Singles’ Day is an event for celebrating youthfulness and independence. Many Chinese people attend parties at upbeat clubs or bars with their friends. Karaoke bars are quite popular among young people during Singles’ Day. People in search of low-key celebratory activities can go to restaurants that offer Singles’ Day deals. Singles’ Day was originally a holiday for men, but it now also celebrates the single lifestyles of women.
“I won’t buy anything on Single’s Day” (#双11什么都不买#) is a popular quote on Chinese social media. No matter how good the bargains may be, many netizens say they simply do not have the money to buy anything but a deep-fried dough stick. Some people worried that all sellers hike prices before offering a discount, people were being tempted to spend money they didn’t have.
“Well, personally I think spending money on 11.11 is not very worth it. But I bought some (stuff) last night such as books and clothes. They usually have a higher price. I would like to say that you don’t need to spend the time to online shop if you are not really in need of that,” said Elvis, an STL student.
However, it’s fair to say that Singles’ Day may represent the future of retailing. It perfectly fits in with Chinese society’s embrace of technology, romance, and love of spending.
Written by Claudia Fauzi