Lovers in the world have their own festival: Valentine's Day. Instead, single people always have their festival. Singles’ Day (光棍节 Guānggùn Jié) is coming up on November 11th. Haven’t heard of Singles’ Day? That’s probably because it’s a new holiday that was invented right here in China sometime in the ’90s.

No one knows exactly where the holiday comes from originally, although a popular story goes that it arose from some unique traditions invented by high school and college students in Nanjing. But believe it or not, there’s already a legend associated with the holiday. Unfortunately, as with most “legends” invented by youth, it’s a bit raunchy for a family audience, but if you can read Chinese, you can read a simple telling of the tale here.

The holiday–and its origin story–are rooted in the date on which the holiday is celebrated, 11/11. The four ones signify singles, and reflect the name Guānggùn Jié. Literally, it means “bare sticks day”; figuratively, a “bare stick” is someone who is single.

Single’s Day traditions are varied. Generally, people eat dinner with other single friends, paying in the AA制 fashion to demonstrate their independence. In the morning, they may eat four fried youtiao, thin sticks of dough that represent the four ones in the date. Other traditions are still being invented. The Baidu Baike page for the holiday lists creative new traditions and even ranks them with a system of stars for difficulty and creativity. Current suggestions include streaking on the number 11 public bus (high marks for creativity, but low marks for difficulty), drinking alone (mediocre scores in both categories), and seeking out and fighting the person currently dating a former crush of yours (mediocre scores all around).

If you’re looking to celebrate the holiday, we suggest eating the youtiao, skipping the streaking and fighting, and instead coming to our Singles’ Day Party at the Box Lounge! It’s going to be a good time, and there will be plenty of other singles there. You never know; this could be the last Singles’ Day you ever celebrate! 

The day, which literally translates as “bare sticks festival,” was first celebrated at universities in Nanjing in the 1990s. Singles would celebrate the day with a breakfast of four deep-fried twisted dough sticks (油条 yóutiáo), and either an egg or baozi (包子), steamed buns stuffed with meat and vegetables. The four youtiao represent the four ones in the date, and the round egg or baozi represent a period.

The day is usually also celebrated amongst single friends with a “singles dinner,” where everyone goes dutch to show their independence. Many restaurants and clubs also hold blind date parties, where singles can seek out Mr. or Mrs. Right. Other forms of celebration include working overtime, getting drunk and, for those confident enough that their physique can help make this their last single’s day, streaking. – K.D.