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Alibaba's shopping holiday that's bigger than Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined just brought in $25 billion

Alibaba has turned "Double 11" into the world's largest shopping event. This year Alibaba sold $25.3 billion worth of merchandise.

Ever since its early days as a student event in the 1990s, November 11 was called "Singles' Day" in some parts of China; an occasion during which individuals would try and find a partner.

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Now, Alibaba has dubbed it "Double 11" — a term the company has trademarked and transformed into the world's largest shopping event. During this year's Double 11, taking place on November 11, 2017, Alibaba sold $25.3 billion worth of merchandise.

Created in 2009 as an "Anti-Valentine’s Day," the "11-11 Global Shopping Festival" is now bigger than Black Friday and Cyber Monday, combined.

Encompassing a live-broadcast gala, virtual games, and an interactive fashion show, the 24-hour event has become a global extravaganza selling everything from American sneakers to South Korean washing machines and Argentinian shrimp.

Keep reading to see how this year's event unfolded ...

Alibaba hosted a countdown gala in Shanghai that was broadcast live across China. The event was produced by David Hill, who previously worked on the Super Bowl and the Oscars.

The 4-hour gala was held at the Mercedes-Benz Arena. Nearby, a giant screen tracked sales in real time, which, at one point, reached up to 325,000 orders a second.

The giant screen tracking sales was displayed in front of staff. A large number of pre-orders helped Alibaba do $1 billion in sales in the first two minutes.

In this photo from 2016, staff can be seen tracking orders in front of the countdown screen. This year, more than 140,000 brands and merchants took part and nearly half were international brands.

Actress Nicole Kidman and tennis player Maria Sharapova attended the festivities. In previous years, Scarlett Johansson and Katy Perry turned up on stage.

Pharrell Williams and singer Jessie J performed at this year's gala.

Gala watchers were also able to win $40 million in various prizes, including trips to Antarctica.

Alibaba's campus in China was also lit up with bright-colored lights to celebrate the day.

Only one hour left of #Doub... @ alibaba.group

This photo shows the counter screen at Alibaba's headquarters in 2013. The 11-11 shopping festival began in 2009 with participation from just 27 merchants.

Each year, beds and quilts are put out at the Alibaba campus for the 24-hour sales event. This photo was taken at the company's Xixi campus in 2016.

An aerial photograph of the quilts shows how many employees Alibaba prepared for.

A mascot for Tmall, an online shopping website owned by Alibaba, was seen around Beijing in the week leading up to Singles' Day. The sign reads "Double 11 big sale."

Bullet trains in the Guangdong province are also used to deliver bags of goods.

Staff at warehouses, logistics centers, and courier companies are very busy during Singles' Day. This year, the first Double 11 parcel arrived at 12 minutes and 18 seconds past midnight.

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