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Behind the ‘bare stick festival’
By Wing Tan

Chinese Single’s Day, or Guang Gun Jie (光棍节)which is jokingly called the Bare Sticks Festival, falls every November 11 (11.11), each numeral “1” representing a single, unmarried person — a bare stick.

Chinese bachelors are traditionally called bare sticks or bare branches because they have no offshoots or offspring yet. And marriage and offspring are what it’s all about, so there’s great pressure on both young men and women to marry and start a family.

Bare sticks refer, obviously, to men, but the contemporary festival is about all singles and has emerged as something like Valentine’s Day, Chinese Lovers’ Day and Christmas among young Chinese.

It’s a time of parties to meet new friends, gift-giving and efforts to transform single status to wedlock.

November 11 is the annual big Single’s Day because it has four 1s, while January 11 and November 1 are the small Single’s Day. The super Single’s Day fell on November 11, 2011.

Quite a few engaged couples like to register to marry on November 11, because all those 1s make for an auspicious day to officially say good-bye to the single life.

It’s said that the “festival” was concocted about 20 years ago by a group of bachelors joking in their university dorm.

On this day, bachelors are supposed to eat an entire bing tang hulu (冰糖葫芦), a stick of crispy, sugar-coated fruit, or they will be cursed to remain single for another year.

In recent years, Single’s Day has turned into something of an online shopping craze. Shops offer special discounts and many office workers even ask for a one-day’s leave to sit in front of their computer at home starting at midnight, to get the best bargains.

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