Black Friday is just around the corner, and consumers are gearing up for a holiday weekend sale frenzy on some of the hottest technology and other items. Most people think they know where the term Black Friday originates, but the real history of the term is interesting and surprising.
Everyone knows by now that Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving, and the day in which retailers have huge sales on many of the hottest items of the year. Black Friday has become so popular that it has actually begun in some instances to usurp Thanksgiving, in that many stores, including Walmart, the largest retailer in the U.S., open on Thursday and begin their Black Friday sales on the holiday.
The most commonly known story for the origin of the term Black Friday relates it to the black ink bookkeepers use when a company is turning a profit, that is, they are no longer "in the red." The traditional explanation is that the day after Thanksgiving is the time each year when most retailers finally show a profit, and that sales from that day until the end of the year are all Thanksgiving gravy.
That story is actually a myth, perpetuated by retailers to supplant the real origin of the day, which has a decidedly more negative connotation. The modern term Black Friday actually began in Philadelphia, Pa., in the 1960s. It did refer to the day after Thanksgiving, but was called such because Philadelphians dreaded it each year, as the city was flooded with tourists and shoppers from nearby suburbs ahead of the big Army-Navy football game that traditionally takes place on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. The huge influx wreaked havoc on the city, meaning cops had to work extra-long shifts on the day, protecting merchants from attempts by shoplifters to take advantage of the huge crowds by hauling off merchandise.
The city itself even attempted to change the name of the day to "Big Friday" to remove the negative connotation, but it didn't stick. It wasn't until fairly recently, in the late 1980s, that the term spread around the country as a result of retailers spinning the formerly negative concept into the bargain-shopping bonanza it has now become.
While the term for the holiday shopping day has quickly evolved into a cultural institution, some Americans have recently challenged the concept, claiming it ruins the family spirit of the Thanksgiving holiday. As a result, this year, several top retailers which have previously opened and begun their Black Friday sales on Thanksgiving, such as Staples and GameStop, will remain closed on the holiday, while REI has announced that it will actually close on Black Friday as well, so that its workers can spend more time with their families, and so that Americans can enjoy the day outside rather than indoors shopping.