Nov 11

Happy Singles’ Day

Written by DJ on Wednesday, November 11th, 2009 at 4:38 am
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Happy Single's Day

November 11th has now emerged as a new holiday dedicated to the singles in China. It essentially serves as an anti-Valentine’s Day, and is the Chinese equivalent of Singles Awareness Day (SAD), during which those unhappily unattached commiserate in their single status.

In China, a single person is often referred to as a 光棍, which literally means a featureless stick. As such, those dates composed of all 1’s are all called 光棍节 Singles’ days. (i.e., In addition to November 11th, January 1st, January 11th, and November 1st are accepted as Singles’ days too.) But November 11th is considered the most significant.

The origin of Singles’ Day is fuzzy, but is generally described as a product of college campus jokes in the early 1990s.

[Update] Interestingly, a similar holiday on the very same date also started in Korea in the 1990s. It is called Pepero Day, named after a particular brand of chocolate sticks.

Some say that the dedicated food of the Singles’ Day is four 油条 deep-fried doughsticks and one 包子 stuffed bun, as shown and explained in the photo below.

Single's day food

As this cultural phenomenon becomes popular over the years, it is inevitably becoming commercialized. A couple of examples are shown below.

Single's day gift

This looks like a rather cute gift for the Singles’ Day.

Single's day party poster

And this poster advertises a Singles’ Day party special as a Beijing club.

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28 Responses to “Happy Singles’ Day”

  1. FOARP Says:

    It is churlish and over-sensitive of me to say this, but for a British person celebrating anything on the 11th of November seems bad taste.

  2. Raj Says:


    Yeah, unless one was unlucky enough to have their birthday on it. Though I suppose you could always celebrate the end of the war.

  3. Nimrod Says:

    It is an odd, odd holiday. I’ve only heard about it in conversation since a few years ago, which makes it sound like a post-80’s/post-90’s phenomenon. This, along with mafia-playing and the card game “tractor” seem to be products of turn-of-the-century Chinese college culture.

  4. berlinf Says:

    There is a saying in China called: 夫妻居室,人之大伦。(It is highly moral to have a husband and wife living together under one roof.) I think Paul in the New Testament says something to the same effect, that being single takes extra gift and grace. Not everybody can do it, or should be doing it. Well, at least I am not that gifted any more.

    Indeed, that is one odd holiday.

  5. TonyP4 Says:

    Is it a holiday so Chinese do not have to go to work?

    Is it for or against being a single?

    With the unbalanced ratio of male and female, there will be more male singles. With more male singles, CCP, in theory, have to encourage prostitute ‘profession’ so cutting down sex crimes and avoid social unrest. Or, they have to encourage one wife for several husbands (or one wife for several brothers to start as in some African countries).

    It is a good way to control population explosion or boost up female rights. 🙂

  6. DJ Says:


    Most Chinese are probably unaware of the significance of November 11th to people in the commonwealth since China wasn’t a true participant in the WWI and doesn’t mark this date in any manner. In the U.S., it is also an date easy to escape attention even though it is marked as Veterans Day because the focus tends to be on the Memorial Day in May. (In my case, I have to look it up to understand what you mean in the comment.)

    That said, WWI did leave a deep mark in the modern China history known as the May Fourth Movement. Given that context, instead of viewing it as a war of good vs. evil, as WWII is commonly regarded, WWI is sometimes seen in China as evil vs. evil.

    BTW, I personally feel that WWI is somewhat misnamed as it is mostly an European war.

  7. TonyP4 Says:

    Is G

    Is Genghis Khan conquest named WW0?

  8. Steve Says:

    Thanks for the article, DJ. I had never heard of this one before. Seems pretty harmless to me. Any excuse for a dinner with friends sounds like a good deal, though I never saw anyone “go Dutch” while over there. 😛

  9. DJ Says:


    Well, it was news to me as well as I only found out about it yesterday. I had no idea that such a holiday just came out of nowhere and now it seems to be a real deal. Personally I like it, in the sense that if reflects a society going beyond making ends meet and able to add to the its richness of culture. Even the commercialization of this harmlessly silly holiday is kinda nice.

  10. Wukailong Says:

    Actually, I didn’t know about November 11th either. Shame on me.

  11. Nimrod Says:

    Just to be clear though, it’s a “joke” holiday, and it is a holiday only because urban youths who take part in it pretend it is one. More a reflection about delayed marriage of the single, career-oriented post-80’s generation.

  12. S.K. Cheung Says:

    In Canada, Nov 11 is Remembrance Day, traditionally to mark the end of WW 1 as others have mentioned, but also as a day to honour veterans and service-men and women. Is there a similar day in China?

  13. DJ Says:


    In China, August 1st is the Army Day of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army. This date marks the establishment of the PLA in 1927. There is no specific remembrance day for veterans or fallen soldiers per se. Qingming Festival (清明节), which is a traditional Chinese memorial day and typically observed with tomb sweeping, serves this purpose in the general sense to some degree.

  14. justkeeper Says:

    @TonyP4: History is written by the winners. Genghis Khan and his troops prevailed in Asia, but did not annex the Europe into Mongol’s territory, so the opinions on his conquest are divided between the East and the West, the buzzword “WW*” is usually reserved for the old-school” good guys beat band guys” wars.

  15. TonyP4 Says:

    #14. Thanks, justkeeper.

    I believed he captured Poland and Hungary plus some Russian cities. I forgot whether he stayed there to rule them or not as they’re pretty far away. He just robbed, raped, enslaved, and asked them to tribute their treasures every year.

    Genghis Khan is a bad guy by any standard. Europe actually benefited a lot by learning China’s technology like gun powder, navigation skill…

  16. Steve Says:

    Genghis Khan died long before the Mongols moved into Europe. It was under the reign of his son Ogedei when that happened. The troops were commanded by Genghis Khan’s grandson Batu. They were ordered to conquer all the way to the Atlantic Ocean but they stopped the campaign when Ogedei died. The custom of the Mongols was that when the Khan died, the other leaders had to go back to Mongolia for the ascension of the new Khan. The Golden Horde controlled southern Russia for over 300 years but they weren’t very good rulers. Eventually with the rise of Moscow, they were defeated and modern Russia came into being.

  17. FOARP Says:

    @DJ – Read “Farewell To All That” by Robert Graves, or even just some of the poetry of Wilfred Owen or Siegfried Sassoon and you will understand that we do not commemorate WW1 because we think it was a ‘good’ war. We commemorate the dead, not necessarily as heroes, but as men and women who died for their country, some unwillingly. The red poppy represents rebirth after the slaughter, and new life for the veterans and the country, as poppies were the first flowers to grow in no-man’s land, and their red colour represents spilt blood.

    This is a total aside, but I remember the great difficulty I had trying to explain the meaning of the Wilfred Owen poem ‘Dulce et Decorum Est ‘ to final-year Chinese English students. I had grown up being taught such poetry from an early age (it started at age 8, with the 70th anniversary of the end of WW1), but here were people who had seemingly only ever experienced such poetry through the lens of patriotism and pro-war sentiment. Here was perhaps the greatest and most profound anti-war poem ever written, made more profound still for having been written by a young man destined to die, but even after a good two hours of working over the meaning of the poem, nobody could even hazard a guess as to what it was about. This was not even about shyness, or misunderstanding, I had checked that they understood every sentence and thoroughly explained every archaism. I simply got the feeling that they couldn’t see how a brave soldier could be anti-war. One of the students even later said that she thought the poem was wrong, that people should not agree with it because they should want to fight to defend their country. it was one of my most depressing experiences ever, in China or elsewhere, I was not looking for my students to agree with my own sentiments, far from it, but their inability to suggest any explanation as to what Wilfred Owen was trying to say was shocking.

    However, I will repeat again what I said before, I do not expect people who did not grow up in the same country that I did, and who were not made by their teachers to bow their heads for 2 minutes at 11 o’clock on the 11th of November every year to understand the sentiments that surround this date, but I thought that Wilfred Owen spoke in a language comprehensible to all. I was wrong, obviously.

    However, I’ll still recommend Graves, Sassoon, McRae, and Owen to anyone who wishes to understand the history of those times, and indeed the nature of war in general.

  18. DJ Says:


    I always had an impression that WWI was regarded by many as mostly a pointless and brutal meat grinder for the foot soldiers. So I can certainly understand your sentiment. I didn’t intend to imply that people in UK regarded WWI as good vs. evil. And your comment just made clear that some in UK shared the non-approving view of that war and its parties, as some in China do.

    BTW, I was strictly providing information in my comment #6. I personally do not subscribe to the idea that WWII was good vs. evil.

  19. hohhot Says:

    WWI and WWII were “world” wars probably because the whole world was mobilized for the war effort, big powers were direct participants, their colonies were indirect participant. China’s republican government sent many labours to europe to support the entente powers. WWI has been mainly regarded as an imperialist war in China. in london i seldom see ethnic Chinese wearing red poppies on rememberance day. Probabaly red poppies are like St George flag, too irrelavant to many Chinese, esp. when many people here seem to link red poppies to the on-going wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. I don’t wear red poppies, but i would like to go out dine with a single friend to celebrate the 11 day.

  20. TonyP4 Says:

    Hi Steve, it is more true that they returned to see who (if not themselves) will be next Khan than the custom when one Khan died. I started reading a book about Genghis Khan. It is not too biased and quite fascinating. Are Mongolians part of Chinese? If so, are they liability or asset in Chinese history?

  21. justkeeper Says:

    @TonyP4&Steve: I believe Genghis Khan is absolutely an evil person, and the total war he started which killed from more than 30 million to100 million people depending on which source you refer to, and decimated, sometimes halved the total population of many countries spread across the whole Eurasia (China, Khwarezm, Iraq, Hungary,etc), can by all means be called a World War. What I was saying is since history is written by winners, and his troops prevailed in Asia, he is respected by many countries to be a hero, (Mongolia, China, Central Asian countries,etc). So comparing him to someone like Hitler would be politically incorrect, and since no one has living memoery of his war, avoiding such a topic wouldn’t hurt anyone.

  22. Steve Says:

    Hi TonyP4 & justkeeper: Justkeeper, I agree with your assessment of Genghis Khan; the guy was brutal. I certainly wouldn’t call him a hero. I’ve actually read several books on his life until the end of his empire since I find the period fascinating. I think it is accurate to say that he was the first leader to wage total war. I got interested when I was reading a book about military strategy that had a chapter on Subutai, the great Mongol general. That led me to the history of that period. Some of those stories are incredible, like how they conducted a hunt. Tony, have you read about that yet?

    I’ve never considered Mongolians to be Chinese. I’ve always considered them to have been the barbarians at the gates, so to speak. And the funniest bit of casting in Hollywood history had to be John Wayne as Genghis Khan in The Conqueror. 😛

  23. TonyP4 Says:

    Hi Steve, I read this translated book in Chinese from a US professor. It was fascinating with the strategies. From the book, there was only a little over 100,000 soldiers to start. Almost done with the book. Subutai could be the one to wage war on Europe the second time, when he was quite fat but many smart.

    Their children and grand children were very good rulers, esp. when they did not have much experience. They spread the cultures and technologies between east and west. Marco Polo and later Columbus had to thank him.

    John Wayne must have a tough time in hell to face the Chinese and Indians he killed. Columbus really thought the American natives were Indians when he thought he reached India, which was next street to China for him. 🙂

  24. justkeeper Says:

    The above post is a spam, please delete it.

  25. Steve Says:

    Thanks, Justkeeper! That’s the second post that has snuck past the spam filter in the last week. I guess someone figured out a way to beat it… for now.

  26. justkeeper Says:

    @Steve: Hmmm….we can’t blame the filter, even human had a difficult time spotting it, isn’t it?

  27. Steve Says:

    Hi Justkeeper~ Actually, I spotted it but was on the road and didn’t have my password handy to get in there and delete it. I guess the other editors hadn’t read that particular post. Remember, all of us just do this in our spare time so there isn’t someone monitoring the blog 24/7. Eventually, we usually get to all of them but we always appreciate when one of our readers lets us know when something is amiss.

  28. justkeeper Says:

    Hi Steve, don’t get me wrong, I’m not blaming anyone here, I was just saying it’s quite tricky to spot this post and the spam-author has obviously done quite a research and it nearly sliped through my usually quite sensitive nose to spams, So it’s not the filter that is inept, it’s just the enemies are too cunning.(不是国军无能,只是共产党太狡猾)。

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