When did Black Friday become a thing?

For many people, Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, is the beginning of the Christmas shopping season. It’s considered one of the biggest shopping days of the year in the United States. Even before the last of the Thanksgiving turkey is gone, our minds may flood with thoughts of Black Friday deals. But when did this unofficial holiday begin?

While there are many myths as to when the term “Black Friday” began, the true story of how Black Friday became a “thing” is not as positive as retailers may make it seem.

One of the most common misconceptions about the origins of the term “Black Friday” is directly connected to retailers, according to Tech Times. In the ‘60s, as post-Thanksgiving shoppers flooded the stores on the hunt for discounted products, stores operating at a loss, also known as “in the red,” would finally earn a profit, which was referred to as going “into the black.” While this story may sound good, the actual story as to where the term comes from might surprise you.

The term “Black Friday” was coined in the 1950s by the Philadelphia Police Department. According to the History Channel, Philadelphia police used the term to describe the mayhem that happened the day after Thanksgiving as a result of the shoppers and tourists who flooded the city in advance for the annual Army-Navy football game on Thanksgiving weekend. The police had to work overtime, dealing with crowds of shoppers and additional traffic, resulting in the negative connotation of the term.

By the 80s, the term “Black Friday” had spread in Philadelphia. According to Tech Times, the city attempted to change the name of the dreaded day to “Big Friday” to remove the negative stigma attached to the term, but it didn’t stick. It wasn’t until the 1980s that the term “Black Friday” spread across the country when retailers reinvented the term from something negative to something positive.

Since then, what started out having nothing to do with discounts, deals and everything in between has grown into a huge shopping event in the United States. Before fully digesting Thanksgiving turkey, some shoppers are ready to run out the door for this one-night bargain-shopping jackpot every year. While not many people are aware of Black Friday’s origins, it seems the chaos that ensued in Philadelphia in the ‘60s isn’t far off from the shopping experience every year on this unofficial holiday.


For more information on the origins of Black Friday, visit history.com/news/whats-the-real-history-of-black-friday and techtimes.com/articles/110156/20151126/the-real-history-of-black-friday-is-not-what-you-think.htm.

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