But Why is it Called Black Friday?

Now that I’m back in town* I thought I’d resolve a question that’s bothered me for some time.

Why is the Friday after Thanksgiving called “Black Friday”?

According to Wikipedia (aka, “the most reliable source of true reliable potentially made up but usually persuasive information in the known universe”):

  • The term “Black Friday” originated in Philadelphia in the mid-1960s as a description of the extra-heavy traffic that choked the streets. (Note: I’m not sure whether the “black” bit refers to vehicle exhaust, the color of trampled snow, the state of residents’ tempers after dealing with out-of-town shoppers, or something else entirely.)
  • General application of the term “Black Friday” to the Friday after Thanksgiving (outside Philadelphia) began about ten years later.
  • An alternative explanation for “Black Friday” is that it refers to the first holiday shopping date when retailers operate “in the black” due to increased sales.

Other interesting Black Friday trivia:

  • Black Friday has been the busiest (and for retailers, allegedly the most profitable) shopping day of the year since 2005.  Before that it merely ranked among the top ten.
  • People have been injured (and in 2008, one WalMart worker was even killed) during Black Friday “shopping stampedes”
  • The “operating in the black” explanation apparently emerged because retailers objected to use of a negative term to describe what they hoped would remain a highly profitable shopping date.

And for those already experiencing a “touch o’ the Scrooge” over all the shopping frenzy, blame Macy’s.  The appearance of Santa Claus in the traditional Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade (which began in 1927 as  the Macy’s Christmas Parade) helped teach the American buying public that Christmas – and all the associated “bows and whistles” – begins on Thanksgiving Day.

On a personal note, this year I intend to observe Black Friday by taking a long nap.

I call it “sustainable shopping.”

Happy Black Friday to you.

*Some of you may have noticed a few days of silence here on the blog.  I was in the mountains  sharing Thanksgiving blessings (and a rather large snowstorm) with my extended family.  Four days of skiing, snowshoeing and one over-sized snowman later, we are home and the blog is rolling once more. I hope you had as nice an opportunity to count your blessings, and as beautiful a setting to do it in, as I did.

One thought on “But Why is it Called Black Friday?

  • November 30, 2010 at 9:41 am

    I love your concept of sustainable shopping. I told the kids that’s what we’d be doing, though, and they began to mutiny. I then told them they were welcome to shop the old-fashioned way, and we would compare methods at Christmas. Glad you had a fun holiday. All the best.

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