Let’s take a moment and look at how Black Friday started in the first place

It’s that time of year again where shoppers all over the world, and particularly in the United States, roll up their sleeves, and get ready to fight for the latest Black Friday bargains! We’ve become accustomed to seeing tragicomic scenes of people trampling over one another in order to get their hands on the latest consumer electronics products. But how did Black Friday actually begin?
Black Friday
Shoppers dashing to get the best bargains at a Black Friday store opening. Photo: Powhusku via Flickr.

Day after Thanksgiving

Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving in the United States, which is arguably an even more popular and widely celebrated holidays than Christmas. The day after Thanksgiving has been regarded as the beginning of Christmas shopping season in the United States since 1952, although the term Black Friday was not commonly used at this time.

In many ways, the term Black Friday can be considered a slightly strange one, considering the implications of the work ‘black’ itself. For example, in the United Kingdom, Black Wednesday referred to a disastrous day in the British economy, during which the UK government was forced to withdraw the pound from the European Exchange Rate Mechanism. And everyone has heard of the famous Black Death, and the chilling consequences this crippling plague brought.

But somehow, over the years, Black Friday became adopted as a positive nickname for a day of increasing shopping chaos! And the earliest reference to this phrase appears to date back to November 1951, when it appeared in the journal ‘Factory Management and Maintenance’. In this original context, it refer to the practice of workers calling in sick on the day after Thanksgiving, in order to claim a four-day weekend.

Black Friday
Massive queues for Apple stores are commonplace on Black Friday. Photo: JoeInQueens via Flickr.

First usage

However, the first reported usage of Black Friday in the context of Thanksgiving shopping appeared in the New York Times on November 29, 1975. It hardly spread like wildfire at this time, though, with retailers in Cincinnati and Los Angeles still reportedly completely unaware of the term even 10 years later.

But at some point during the 1980s, the American media adopted the phrase Black Friday, which brought the concept into the public consciousness. At this time, stores began to take advantage of the momentum caused by this, and the two factors commingled to create a rolling snowball of retail activity that has never since slowed down.

Since the Internet became the huge commercial medium that it is today, online retailers have really doubled-down on the Black Friday concept. And even though Black Friday is still not an official holiday in the United States, some states now observe ‘The Day After Thanksgiving’ as a holiday for state government employees, sometimes in lieu of another federal holiday.

Black Friday
Packed shopping centers and chaotic scenes are normal and expected on Black Friday. Photo: Daniel Ramirez via Flickr.

Busiest day

This has helped install Black Friday as the busiest shopping day of the year in the United States, with spending topping $50 billion in American alone in recent years. However, as some consumers have become sick of the Black Friday hype, certain shrewd retailers have decided to spread sales over the November and December season, rather than focusing on one particular day.

None of this is likely to prevent a cavalcade of cash being splashed this year, though, with worldwide Black Friday spending expected to exceed $800 billion for the first time.

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