Saturday, November 10, 2018

Still Life with Robin: Eleven Eleven

by Peggy Robin

November 11, 2018  is the one hundredth anniversary of the end of World War I. If you remember what you were taught in history class, you will pause for a moment at precisely 11:00 AM – the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month – the exact time chosen as the armistice that we have now observed for a century. All across Europe and America there are solemn observances, wreath laying ceremonies, and memorial services.

Once we’ve had our moment of sober reflection, we can get on with the ordinary activities of our three-day holiday weekend – shopping, sales, and getting ready for the run-up to the big-ticket spending for the winter holidays. Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday are just a few short weeks away. And yet, on the other side of the globe, it’s already the biggest online shopping day of the year. That’s right – in China, every year on 11/11, online sales are massive, as this day is a holiday celebrated by millions – no, billions! – who buy gifts for Singles Day

That’s right, 11/11 is a holiday for the unmarried and romantically unattached. It’s a day for single people to stand up proudly and say, I don’t need a partner to buy stuff for me…. I can buy myself an expensive present if I like….and that’s just what people do. The date 11/11 was chosen because the four ones in a row can be seen as four single individuals. Well, it might have made more sense, symbolically speaking, to pick January first (1/1), but that date was already taken for New Year’s Day in the international calendar. 
 [Creative Commons]

This November 11th marks the tenth anniversary of Singles Day – it was invented by China’s most profitable online shopping company Alibaba in 2008, and it already eclipses both Black Friday and Cyber Monday in combined sales – see The popularity of a day for singles to celebrate themselves and buy themselves stuff is already spreading far beyond China, to Korea and other parts of Asia. How much longer will it be before Singles Day takes root in Europe and the Americas? After all, we have lots of single people and why would they not want a holiday that tells them to spend money on themselves, like their peers in the eastern half of the world?

There are no more living veterans of World War I to remember Armistice Day. But there will never be a shortage of young singles to celebrate November 11 as Singles Day.

Still Life with Robin is published on the Cleveland Park Listserv and All Life Is Local on Saturdays.

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