Singles’ Day

Singles day drawing

While 11.11 is known to the West as the day on which WWI officially came to an end, in China it is celebrated – or mourned, depending on how your view your situation – as Singles’ Day (光棍节, guāng gùn jié). The literal meaning of the Chinese is ‘bare branch festival’ and this seems to me to mean that either us singles are trees that have yet to flower or trees that are not yet weighed down by all those leaves and fruit. I had never been to a Singles’ Day Supper until tonight at St. Peter’s College (Oxford), so I had decided to find out more about it beforehand. The custom originated from Nanjing University – how apt that my first experience of it also occurs in university! It is also the most important online shopping date in China – what a lonely activity. On this day it is customary for single friends to gather together and eat 4 fried dough sticks (油条, yóu tiáo) and 1 steamed bun (包子, bāo zi), and I’ll leave it to you to guess why. Each person pays his/her own part of the bill, to show their independence. Luckily for our group of 60, the bill had already been neatly divided (in the form of formal hall tickets). No traditional food – just formal hall fare –  but a great experience, good company, and a few familiar faces too! A lovely way for me to practise my Mandarin…

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