Single’s Day is celebrated on the 11th of November and it is a very famous celebration in China, the country which gave birth to it. During the Guanggun Jie – the original name of the celebration – the young Chinese happily celebrate their pride to be single and assert their way of living independently from sentimental bonds.
One of the main reasons for which the Single’s Day has become popular is the incredible number of online and offline shopping activities that Chinese people undertake during the Guanggun Jie: the Single’s Day has defeated any kind of record related to shopping, even beating Black Friday and becoming the biggest global shopping day of the year! On 11th of November 2018 only, the e-commerce sites of Alibaba's group (among which AliExpress, Tmall and Tao Bao) have cashed 30,7 billion dollars, with an increase of the 27% compared to the previous year. This consumeristic outburst can be explained partly with the explicit will of the companies to lure and win over potential buyers, more willing to open up their pockets during celebrations: in occasion of Single’s Day, Chinese companies offer the strongest discounts to customers, taking advantage of the large spreading of the festivity and the vast appeal it reaches.
Anyway, the reason for the Single’s Day success is not only economic or consumerist. There are also different causes, related mainly to traditions and Chinese history. To understand why the Guanggun Jie holds such a special place in young Chinese, and why they feel so motivated to turn this emotional drive into shopping, we have to give some further information about Single’s Day, the country occurrences, its culture. Single’s Day was established in 1993 in the Nanjing University upon the initiative of some students. It was conceived at first as a “day for bachelors” addressed exclusively to men. The date chosen, the 11/11, was symbolically loaded: the number “1” repeated 4 times indicates the individual, the single person. That is not a case that the Single’s Day, in the beginning, was tinged by a rather melancholic and negative hue. As time went by, celebrations were extended also to women and the Guanggun Jie message turned mainly positive: no more a celebration to be sorry for one's loneliness, but an occasion to cherish the freedom from bonds, to allow oneself some fancy treat or – why not – to be on the lookout for a partner.
To the symbolism of the date, other meanings were added: 11 started to indicate two people placed aside, who find each other grow closer and intimate without losing their independence. The favourable mood in which the 11th of November is celebrated now is proved by the large number of engaged couples who choose that specific day to get married: for example, during 2011's Guanggun Jie 4000 couples got married in Beijing, against a “normal” average of 700.
During the Single’s Day many activities are related to love life and the heart's matters are carried out. One can participate to parties and thematic events, to speed dates and real dedicated parties. During Single’s Day, even Chinese televisions allocate a large part of the broadcasting to the relationships and the love thematics in general.
Single’s Day success has not to be credited only to companies' interest in supporting the celebration but also derives from social reasons. From a demographic point of view, there’s a clear gap between the masculine and feminine population in China: in the next few years the number of men will outgrow by 20/30% the number of women, with a difference of about 30 millions of units. This gender gap can be explained by the famous “policy of the only child” which has characterized the country up until 2013. The “policy of the only child” was introduced by Deng Xiaoping in 1979 to try to curb the uncontrollable population rise. Unfortunately, the measure – introduced for understandable reasons– had dramatic effects in a civilization like the Chinese one, where a strong preference for male descendants was already rooted. The consequences of the “policy of the only child” are nowadays apparent within the phenomenon of the “leftover man”, men who are “bachelors” by no choice, with very little prospects to find a partner.
It may seem paradoxical but despite this demographic imbalance, there is a similar phenomenon concerning women, the so-called “leftover women” (sheng nu): this is the way girls who postpone their wedding beyond 27 years old, for study or professional reasons, are labelled. The choice of such a lifestyle by women is harshly criticized by the most conservative part of society, reinforced by the tendency of Chinese men to look for partners that are less qualified than them for social dignity reasons. Whether you are a man or a woman, to be single is not so difficult in China! Anyway, although in the past such condition would have brought with it shame and embarrassment, in the last decade the stigma of being single not only has been overcome but was raised to a point of pride.
There’s more: Chinese culture confers to hospitality and presents a great value, so much to codify exactly the ceremony to give and receive a present. Chinese spend lots of money on presents, just because the exchange of homages is an important way to reinforce family connections and friends and work-related bonds. The Single’s Day represents the occasion in which one person can finally buy a gift to himself (or more than one), reinvigorating his self-esteem. It is not a coincidence if Chinese youngsters consider the Single’s Day a sort of vicarial Christmas. Now Single’s Day is a cheerful opportunity to spend time together and enjoy some treats. Chinese expect it with lots of anticipation, showing to be more and more and more emancipated, eager to reaffirm their independence or to celebrate their special connections.
Single’s Day is not only the one in his kind: in many countries, there is a date dedicated to single women and bachelors; in England the 11th of March, in Italy the 15th of February (Saint Faustino), if we want to mention only two examples. But none of them seems to have the Guanggun Jie appeal. Maybe this is the reason why many commercial enterprises and multinationals are already reaching beyond Chinese boundaries to export this celebration and include it into the global calendar. So our suggestion is, on November 11th keep an eye on online shopping platforms based in China but extremely active in other countries, the ones which are going to be the first to take advantage from Single Day, trying to ride its wave offering discounts and to the public worldwide: great nominees are websites based in China, but not only, selling clothes or electronics: the likes of Shein, Fonehouse and BoohooMan. If you want to be on the safe side, just remember to go also on Ali Express or Gear Best during the Guanggun Jie: whether you are single or in a couple, this is the time to do great deals.