Why is it called “Black Friday?” It’s Friday. Shouldn’t it have a happier color associated with it? Plus, it’s the day after Thanksgiving, so most people are off of work and can just sit at home eating turkey sandwiches. Why the grim nickname? Well, there are a few possible reasons the day after Thanksgiving is called Black Friday. Most likely, the name has meant different things over the years, and today it probably means different things to different people, depending on whether you are a zealous shopper, an under-appreciated retail sales associate, or a mall cop trying to control the mob.
“Black Friday” is the term commonly associated with the day after Thanksgiving. Since Thanksgiving in the United States falls on the fourth Thursday of November, Black Friday is always between the 23rd and the 29th – about a month before Christmas.
Black Friday is the unofficial start to the Christmas shopping season in the U.S. because it’s when Christmas advertising begins and when many stores start having sales to boost revenue. Additionally, because most people do not have to go to work that day (and because they just spent a whole day cooped up with the family eating and watching football), the number of shoppers in stores is enormously increased on Black Friday.
The name, “Black Friday,” has a few different meanings. Bonnie Taylor-Blake, a neuroscience research analyst at the University of North Carolina and amateur linguist, has done some research on the origins of the term “Black Friday.” She says:
"Its more modern application is in regard to profitability for the day. So a lot of people think that the black in Black Friday refers to ledger books going from negative values, which would be in the red, into positive values, which is into the black. Some research I did sort of indicates that this term probably originated in the late fifties, early sixties, and it was probably used as a term, sort of a pejorative term, a sort of tongue-in-cheek term to refer to the day after Thanksgiving as a day of disaster and woe, where downtown Philadelphia was completely swamped with holiday shoppers. And we think that the police department, members of the police force had this as a slang description for that day, because they were going to be faced with huge traffic woes and probably snarling customers on sidewalks. It was just going to be a real headache for police and probably for transit workers like cab drivers and bus drivers as well."
She goes on to theorize that retailers, fearing that the negative term would deter shoppers from going downtown to shop, put a more positive spin on it by going back to the accounting terminology (being “in the black”).
Another possible theory as to why it is called “Black Friday” is this: On Friday, September 24, 1869, there was a huge crash in the gold market on the New York Gold Exchange. This day is also known as Black Friday, and it is thought by some that the day after Thanksgiving is named after that day in 1869 because the prices in stores plummet just like the gold market did. This, however, is a very shaky theory.
Why is it called “Black Friday?” The truth is that you can call it that for whatever reason you want. If you are a store owner or someone who stands to profit from the day’s sales, you will probably call it that because you will have positive numbers that day. If you are a sales associate who just wants to be at home eating turkey sandwiches, or if you are a police officer who has to deal with traffic jams and accidents as a result of over-zealous and impatient shoppers, you will call it “Black Friday” because of the headaches it causes. And of course, if you are a gold investor in 1869, you have your own reasons.