The Rise Of China’s Single Economy: ‘Unmarried Aunt’ Goes Viral For Handing Out Red Packets During Lunar New Year

What Happened: Lunar New Year is often a key time for brands to strengthen their marketing strategies in China. But this year, the surprise star of the season turned out not to be a luxury house campaign, but rather a viral social media video.

“Unmarried aunt hands out red packets” (不婚主义的小姨过年给孩子发红包) went viral on Douyin for its depiction of a smiling, single woman counting out money for Lunar New Year red packets to give to children — an act normally reserved for married people. The 13-second clip had no dialogue or special effects, but that didn’t stop it from receiving more than 10 million likes in two days. Much of this was down to the portrayal of its titular character and effective use of nostalgia. But more than anything, the video’s popularity speaks to the values of a new generation, one with very different ideas about marriage. 

A video of an unmarried aunt handing out money for the Lunar New Year went viral on Douyin. Photo: Screenshot, Douyin

The buzz quickly spread to other social media platforms, with the relevant topic gaining nearly 400 million views on Weibo in less than a week. The video’s creator @CC雨涵 (only 26 years old) gained more than 1.37 million new followers in five days. Douyin even took this opportunity to create the hashtag “when unmarried people go back home” now viewed more than 50 million times.

The Jing Take: The video’s success arrives at a time when  younger generations are facing increasing social and economic pressure. This has led them to question the importance of marriage. It’s a trend that flies in the face of traditional Chinese culture. And it will have been the cause of many an argument and debate across the dinner table this Spring Festival. Like all festive reunions, the New Year can be a particularly fraught time for such personal “discussions,” with young folk urged towards matrimony by parents and extended family. Data from Baidu confirms this, showing that searches on how to deal with these familial pressures peak every year at this time. 

The video tapped this phenomenon brilliantly. But it also highlighted one successful response to such conversations: the assertion of one’s economic power. Single life doesn’t have to be scary if you’re financially successful. And though many audiences recognized that the video was probably a social media traffic stunt, its popularity still reflects a huge shift in both the role of marriage and social identity among young people, especially professional women.

In 2021, China recorded the lowest number of first marriages in the country with a total of 7.6 million registrations. It’s no coincidence that the country’s population is declining for the first time in nearly six decades. The National Bureau of Statistics revealed that in 2022, the birth rate plummeted to a record low (since 1949) of 6.77 births for every 1000 people. To boost the birth rate, the Sichuan government is now allowing individuals to have as many children as they want and for unmarried mothers to register for births.

All of this points to one thing. The singles’ economy is only going to get stronger. Yes, Spring Festival is all about family. But a family now takes many shapes and forms. One of them, clearly: the self-sufficient joy of being an unmarried aunt. 

The Jing Take reports on a piece of the leading news and presents our editorial team’s analysis of the key implications for the luxury industry. In the recurring column, we analyze everything from product drops and mergers to heated debate sprouting on Chinese social media.



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