Black Friday

Black Friday is a commercial holiday which is usually celebrated the day after Thanksgiving in the United States and is traditionally thought at the beginning of the Christmas gift-buying season. On this day, Americans all over the country rise at the crack of dawn in order to be the first in line at various stores and shopping malls so they can get the deeply discounted deals offered by these retail outlets. Although it is a holiday which was originally started in the U.S., it has been exported to many different countries around the world – although in these other countries, it is celebrated on different days than what it is celebrated in the United States.

History

This day is called Black Friday because it is the one day of the year in which many retailers finally “hit the black” – meaning that they have finally begun to make a profit after being “in the red” all year long.  However, this origin story of the term Black Friday is often considered to be false by many experts. While retailers traditionally used to use a red pen on their ledgers to indicate losses and black ink to indicate gains – it is not how this holiday got its name, although it is generally believed by the general public to be the case.

When the term Black Friday was originally used, it wasn’t used to describe the commercial holiday of today. No, it was a term used to refer to a specific financial crisis. This crisis was the collapse of the United States Gold Market on September 24, 1869. This collapse happened because two stock brokers tried to corner the gold market to make themselves extremely wealthy. However, the plan didn’t work and they ended up sending the Stock Market into a free-fall that eventually caused its collapse. However, this day isn’t the reason why Black Friday got its name either. For that, you have to dig a little deeper.

Black Friday, the holiday, can be traced back to Philadelphia during the 1950s. Every year, thousands of people would flock into the shopping districts of downtown Philly. Originally, it was just flocks of people who had come into the city in preparation to see the football game that was held between the Army and Navy the Saturday following Thanksgiving. So many people would show up, that the Philadelphia police department would have to work extra shifts to deal with the extra crowds and traffic. Eventually, retailers began to offer these potential shoppers special “deals” which inflated the traffic even further. This led to traffic jams, shoplifting and sometimes assaults.  As a result, some of the police officers began to refer to the day as Black Friday – a negative term which stuck almost immediately.

Eventually, this traditional began to get picked up by retailers outside of Philadelphia and by the 1980s had spread to the rest of the country. It was during this time that retailers invented the “black ink” story to put a more positive spin on the whole holiday. After all, no one would want to participate on a day that had the negative connotations of mob violence and larceny. It was a back story that the American public was more than eager to buy, especially considering the story was often accompanied by deals of 50-60% off retail price.

Myths

One of the most enduring Black Friday myths that keep circulating every few years is that this holiday was started by Southern plantation owners before the Civil War. According to this myth – which usually gets spread via various conspiracy theory boards and through email – is that Black Friday was the day in which slave owners could buy discounted slaves and that it was always held on the day after Thanksgiving. However, this myth has been thoroughly debunked by historians and has no basis in fact.

Black Friday Traditions & Practices

Today, Black Friday is seen as sort of a harmless holiday. Millions of Americans all over the country get to stores by 6 am. to get some of the best shopping deals of the year, although some retailers have now begun to open their doors to shoppers at midnight. However, the deals aren’t the only reason why the crowds tend to be so large on this day. It is also because it is not only the start of the Christmas shopping season but is also the day in which many employers give their employees the day off. It is also a day off for many State employees in States from Arkansas to Wisconsin. The media often also plays a big role by featuring non-stop coverage of the crowds and the deals these crowds encounter. This results in hordes of people flooding retail stores – which can occasionally result in people getting trampled or fights breaking out between shoppers, not to mention traffic jams and other unpleasant conditions.

While this day continues to be a pretty big holiday in the United States, it is beginning to lose some of its luster. That is because an ever increasing amount of people are turning away from retail stores and are instead turning their attention to online shopping. This has even resulted in the creation of Cyber Monday, a day which directly competes with Black Friday and may lead to its downfall. Although, that’s not likely to happen anytime soon.

Where is Black Friday celebrated?

United states - 24 states