Nearly 1.4 billion people live in China, which is pretty much the definition of “plenty of fish in the sea.” But it’s expected that, by 2030, more than a quarter of Chinese men in their late thirties will never have married, and not by choice. Meanwhile, single ladies over 28 are widely dismissed as “leftover women.”
This is all to say that dating in China isn’t easy. Maybe that’s why there’s a holiday called Guanggun jie – Chinese Singles’ Day. Celebrated on November 11 because 11/11 is four single ones in a row (clever, right?), the name literally translates to “bare sticks day,” a reference to a slang term for bachelors.
Started in 1993 by Nanjing University students, it didn’t take long for Singles’ Day to become a tradition celebrated around the country. Here’s how you can be a part of it.
1. Eat a Lucky Breakfast
Many singles enjoy a symbolic meal of four deep-fried dough sticks and a steamed bun because those snacks’ shapes resemble the date (11.11). Others eat them because they taste good.
2. Buy Stuff Online
In part because singles traditionally exchange gifts on this day (but mostly for no reason), online retailers offer massive discounts regardless of their customers’ marital status. In fact, the holiday is actually a bigger source of e-commerce than Cyber Monday in the United States. China saw $2.2 billion in internet purchases last November 11. Single or taken, everybody loves stuff.
3. Earn a “Love Bonus” at Work
In Chengdu, China’s answer to Silicon Valley, a tech firm offered its unattached employees a “love bonus” to coincide with Singles’ Day last year. Entering any old relationship could earn you between 500 and 1,000 Yuan ($60 to $120 USD), while dating a colleague is worth an even more attractive 1,112 Yuan ($180 USD) – that is, 1,111 + 1.
4. Hug 1,111 Strangers
At least that’s how this unlikely superhero – known only as Bachelor Man – spent Singles’ Day in 2011.
5. Get Drunk
Singles routinely take part in boozy karaoke (is there any other kind?) and blind date parties, where guang-guangs (single men) and ming-mings (single women) mingle (and guangle?) in the hopes of finding a match.
6. Get Married
Yup, oddly enough, Singles’ Day is a very popular day for weddings. Back in 2011, the once-in-a-century “Super Singles’ Day” (11-11-11) saw Chinese couples flocking to the altar in record-breaking numbers. Not only does that unlikely date promise good luck, but its pronunciation sounds a lot like a Mandarin expression that means “one life, one lifetime.” Okay, that’s adorable.