Why Is It Called “Black Friday”?

The day after Thanksgiving has become known as “Black Friday”, an unofficial holiday in itself with excited shoppers celebrating great deals and many non-shoppers enjoying an extra day off for an extra long weekend. So, why the ominous name for such a happy day?

Like a lot of things, it’s an evolution of history.

“Black Tuesday” is the moniker history has dubbed the day the stock market crashed in 1929 setting off The Great Depression. “Black Sunday” refers to the day in 1935 when a tremendous sand storm engulfed the Great Plains spawning the term “Dust Bowl.” It is also the name of a 1977 film about a terrorist group, Black September, hijacking a Goodyear blimp in order to blow up the Superbowl. The first “Black Friday” was used in reference to the stock market crash of 1869.

Despite the descriptive term used in the past for calamitous events, “Black Friday” contrarily refers to the celebratory day when the Christmas shopping season begins. The day is characterized by retailers offering deep discounts to entice customers in their purchases. Shoppers are energized. The stories are often fantastic for a number of reasons.

The day is the single biggest shopping day of the year in the U.S. kicking off the 4 week Christmas shopping season where retailers typically do 30% of their annual sales. With the exception of the 2008 recession year, consumer spending on Black Friday continues to increase each year. Black Friday sales in 2008 were $501.7 BILLION with the average shopper spending $694.19. In 2017, sales for the single day were $717.5 BILLION with shoppers averaging $1007.24 each.

The day is typically viewed as the day retailers turn their profit for the year; going from the “red”, denoting deficit, to “black” denoting profit in accounting lingo that refers to the practice of recording losses with red ink and profits with black ink.

The earliest known use of “Black Friday” as the day after Thanksgiving occurs in 1951, and again in 1952. Here it referred to the practice of workers calling in sick on the day after Thanksgiving, in order to have a four-day weekend. The term didn’t catch on until it resurfaced in the mid-70’s and gained momentum from there.

Black Friday has since caught the attention of many other countries that celebrate it on different days according to their own shopping seasons. Here in the U.S., anticipation for Black Friday is growing into its own shopping season. Black Friday ads and offers now appear as early as late October, some 5 weeks before the actual date, whereas the traditional Christmas shopping season is only 4 weeks long.

Few things create happier times than people spending money.