Valentine’s Day Got You Down? In China, Singles Get Their Own Holiday.

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Feb. 14 2014 12:04 PM

Valentine’s Day Got You Down? In China, Singles Get Their Own Holiday.

176481424-chinese-lovers-kiss-during-a-competition-to-greet-the_1
Get a room.

Photo by ChinaFotoPress/ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images

Spare a thought, this Valentine’s Day, for the demographically cursed bachelors of China. About 117.7 boys are born for every 100 girls in the country, compared with an international average of about 103 to 107 per 100. In some provinces it’s as high as 130. This imbalance means that by 2020 there are expected to be about 24 million Chinese men of marrying age without spouses.

So while stories like that of the group of Shanghai singles who bought every odd-numbered seat in a movie theater showing a romantic film today in order to spite couples on dates are funny, there’s a much bigger and very alarming population trend behind them.

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China’s bachelor culture has also resulted in the invention of Singles Day, celebrated on Nov. 11—the numerals 11/11 are said to resemble “bare branches,” and the date has also become the world’s biggest online retail day. China’s biggest online shopping company, Alibaba, process more than $5.75 million in orders on Singles Day, 2013, eclipsing America’s Cyber Monday.

Yes, even being single is no escape from a consumerist nightmare brought to you by the valentine-industrial complex.

Some other global Valentine’s tidbits: 

  • It’s more controversial than you might think in some places. The holiday is severely discouraged by religious and secular authorities in Uzbekistan. In Kyrgyzstan schoolchildren are encouraged by their schools to celebrate a holiday called Motherland Defender’s Day instead. At a university in Northwest Pakistan, violence broke out between supporters and defenders of Valentine’s Day.
  • It might be a good idea to stock up on a decade’s worth of Valentine’s chocolate now. The Wall Street Journal reports that due to growing demand for chocolate from consumers in emerging markets, cocoa prices up are 9 percent this year and demand will likely outstrip production for the next five years—the longest shortfall ever recorded. 

Joshua Keating is a staff writer at Slate focusing on international affairs and writes the World blog. 

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