The Origins of Black Friday

The Friday after Thanksgiving is commonly known as Black Friday. It is an occasion unique to America and, as far as retailers are concerned, marks the first shopping day after Thanksgiving and beginning of the Christmas shopping season. This day can fall between the 23rd and 29th of November, as Thanksgiving itself takes place on the fourth Thursday of the month.

This Friday is not an official holiday, although many employees are given the day off by their employers. With the exception of those employed in the retail and banking sectors, the number of people who take the day off from work serve to increase the volume of human traffic to shopping malls on this day. Christmas decorations also go up at this time, lending the streets an air of surreal, unseasonal festivity. Black Friday is marked by stores opening at extremely early hours, even at midnight, and often staying open until midnight the next day. Disinterested observers note how the crowds that are willing to wait for hours before a store opens are a sign of how the consumer lifestyle has taken root in society.

The earliest records of the origin of Black Friday in the shopping context are often cited with reference to Philadelphia, and can be traced back to the 1960”s. Prior to this though, the term was more commonly associated with a financial crisis that occurred in 1869. However, the day came to be more closely linked with the heavy traffic that appears on the day, and perhaps, the resulting black mood that eventually accompanies motorists and shoppers alike.

Perhaps as an attempt to mitigate the negative connotations that the origin of Black Friday held, a different theory began being circulating. It said that retailers operated at a loss from January to November and only made any profits during the holiday season. Hence, their businesses were in the red, and unprofitable. However, thanks to longer operating hours and the large crowds of shoppers that appeared on Black Friday, retailers more than made up for the preceding months” losses, and business was soon in the black.

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