November 11th. In my mind it is inextricably linked to poppies and remembrance. As you probably know, World War One officially ended at 11 am on the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 and the approximately 10,000,000 dead are remembered in the UK each year at the precise minute of the anniversary. The remembrance has since been extended to include all the dead in all wars.
Her Maj and her government come out on the nearest Sunday and lay wreaths on the Cenotaph in central London while a minute’s silence is observed.
Of course, China knows nothing of this and has come up with a totally different ceremony. In recent years, November 11th has become known as 光棍节 or ‘Singles Day’. The unofficial celebration originated in Nanjing University in the late 1990s when some bright sparks with no girlfriends noticed the significance of all those number ones. It really took off in 2011, when the date was 11-11-11 and rapidly spread through China’s college students.
Today, various dating (often blind) events are organised and, well, it’s sort of a meat market really. It’s odd, I think, to have a festival about being single in which everyone tries not to be. But why shouldn’t the lonely have a special day, too?
Of course, being solidly communist capitalist, China (mainly in the form of Alibaba and its on-line shopping site, Taobao) has tagged on to the popularity of the celebrations and turned it into the world’s largest on-line shopping day. Today is a good day to be the owner of a delivery company and a shit day to work for one. Billions of Yuan (The equivalent of $5.8 billion US, last year, for Alibaba Group alone) are spent. A lot of parcels to deliver. Every year the press carries images of delivery stations overflowing with parcels.
China was slow to get into on-line shopping, but have now fully embraced it. But I struggle to connect being single with shopping!
That said, I often use on-line shopping myself. I can get things on-line that I can’t find in Liuzhou and of the things I can find, they are usually cheaper on-line.
For the record, I am single. At last.
Update. It has been reported that Alibaba’s Single’s Day sales for this year were 57,112,181,350元 ($9.3bn / £5.9bn)