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What is Singles Day 2019? Everything you need to know

by Jennifer McShane
10th Nov 2019

This annual event – taking place on November 11th, 2019 – is all about championing being on your own, but did you know it’s four times bigger than Black Friday?

Singles Day sales – for many countries around the world, serves as an annual ‘holiday’ where you can shop for a bargain, all in the name of going solo.

Exactly what is Singles Day?

The shopping-focused day was first created in 1993, by a group of college students in Nanjing, China, to celebrate the state of being single. This is due to the negative cultural associations with being single in the country; women who have not married by the expected age are called “leftover women.” That age could be as young as 25 in rural areas or closer to 30 in cities.

So, for Singles Day, the date 11/11 was chosen because of all of the ones, and because the numbers also have spiritual auspiciousness that signifies everlasting unobstructed-flowing energy.  The day of self-love, treating yourself (you’ll find any number of bargains online, all to honour the day), and unbeatable deals quickly took off and in 2017, it surpassed Black Friday and Cyber Monday (combined) in online sales.

Related: ‘Self-partnered’: Twitter reacts to Emma Watson’s take on single-life

It has become the largest shopping event in the world, raking in just over $30 billion in gross merchandise volume last year — and sales are expected to hit $37 billion by that same metric this year, according to Forbes.

This annual online shopping extravaganza is considered the most anticipated event of the year for Chinese shoppers, and brands around the world also get involved.

Star power


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A post shared by Taylor Swift (@taylorswift) on

Alibaba, China’s — and by some measures, the world’s — biggest online commerce company, usually kicks off Singles Day with a gala event which ends just before midnight on Nov. 11. Last year, Mariah Carey put on a performance, and this year, Alibaba signed up Taylor Swift, while Kim Kardashian did a Livestream on Tmall to launch her fragrances for the shopping festival. The gala, which is streamed online, often showcases some of the brands that will be on offer and prompts users to begin pre-ordering.

Why is there such a stigma around singledom in China in particular?

For a few reasons. According to research on Psychology Today, in nearly every province in China, having a child as a single parent is illegal. Single mothers have to pay “social compensation fees” that can be “six to eight times their yearly salary.” The children of single mothers are also targets of harsh discrimination. They cannot get a residence permit, and without that, they “can’t attend school, access basic social services, or even apply for an identity card.” It is also illegal for single women in China to freeze their eggs.

Also, many Chinese men do not want to marry women who are their equals, according to Roseann Lake’s, Leftover in China: The Women Shaping the World’s Next Superpower, the most highly educated Chinese single women— those with PhDs — are “commonly referred to as a ‘third sex,’ because apparently, “very few men are willing to marry them – not even fellow academics.”

The single, self-partnered girl


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A post shared by Emma Watson (@emmawatson) on

It is by no means just China that has come to stigmatise the single woman, just look at the reaction Emma Watson generated in the recent issue of British Vogue when she referred to her single status at almost 30 as “self-partnered.”

She intended it as a term of empowerment, but more than a few pointed out the fact that she even had to come up with terminology to reduce the societal pressure (subconscious or not) that is put upon women to define their self-worth by their romantic relationships, is telling all on its own. ‘Self-partnering’ takes away from the fact that the individual is single in the first place, after all.

And while Singles Day 2019 is intended to celebrate all the positives that come with you doing you via online shopping (what’s not to love about that?), does segregating such an event really empower, or add to the stigmatising single women can be exposed to?

At least while you ponder the bigger questions, you can bag a decent bargain.