Started and celebrated exclusively by men, the holiday was initially known as a sort of “Bachelor’s Day”, but has since become more inclusive. Over the years it's evolved into a strange crossbreed: think "Tinder meets Valentine’s Day and Black Friday." Like Black Friday in America, many stores offer steep discounts starting at midnight on 11-11, and sales are reportedly in excess of $5-10 billion dollars annually.
The date has become an unofficial match-making holiday—people will often set up friends or family on blind dates on 11-11. Others take the proactive route by searching for a potential mate at KTV (karaoke) bars or nightclubs. Committed couples have hijacked the “1” concept to demonstrate their devotion to their mate—the number is used to express loyalty, as in, “You’re my one and only true love.”
I’ve been in China for six years, but don’t recall hearing of the holiday before coming here. It’s become popularized in Hong Kong and other parts of Asia, but perhaps hasn’t reached “Western Countries” yet (thankfully!). Let us know if you’ve seen China’s own “Hallmark Holiday” permeate the media in your hometown!