Why do we call it Black Friday?

Once the turkey is finished, the football games have been watched, and our stomachs are full, millions of Americans embark on another holiday tradition: planning their Black Friday shopping extravaganza.

That’s right! It’s the day after Thanksgiving, and that means it’s time to hit the stores. Black Friday, which falls on the day after Thanksgiving in the United States, marks the start of the holiday shopping season.

Although it’s not an official holiday, many employers give their employees the day off, and lots of people use this day to get a head start on their holiday shopping.

In recent years, Black Friday has become a marketing phenomenon. Since 2005, it has been the busiest shopping day of the year. To attract shoppers, retailers often open their doors very early in the morning (and sometimes even on Thanksgiving evening!) and offer special sales and promotions to those who arrive early.

Some of the special deals offered by stores are only available in limited quantities. This is why some savvy shoppers camp out in front of stores overnight, hoping to be the first in line when the doors open.

But why do we call it Black Friday? There are a couple of theories about the origin of this name.

Historians believe the name originated in Philadelphia in the mid-1960s. Bus drivers and police officers used “Black Friday” to describe the heavy traffic that would congest city streets on the day after Thanksgiving as shoppers flocked to the stores.

However, businesses didn’t like the negative connotation associated with the name Black Friday. In the early 1980s, a more positive explanation of the name started to circulate.

According to this alternative explanation, Black Friday is the day when retailers finally start to make a profit for the year. In accounting terms, operating at a loss (losing money) is referred to as being “in the red” because accountants traditionally used red ink to indicate negative amounts (losses).

Positive amounts (profits) were usually noted in black ink. Hence, being “in the black” is a good thing because it means stores are making a profit.

Regardless of when a retailer turns a profit for the year, it’s clear that Black Friday is a crucial day for most retailers. Some retailers heavily rely on holiday shopping to make a profit for the year. For others, it’s a day when they definitely see larger-than-usual profits — and that means a lot of profit in black ink!

The recent popularity of Black Friday has given rise to a couple of new shopping holidays: Cyber Monday and #GivingTuesday. For those who are too busy to shop on Black Friday — or who simply don’t want to deal with the crowds — the Monday following Black Friday is known as Cyber Monday, offering numerous online deals that shoppers can take advantage of from the comfort of their own homes. #GivingTuesday was established in 2012 as a day of generosity and philanthropy. On the Tuesday following Thanksgiving, individuals, organizations, and communities come together to celebrate and encourage giving to charities and those in need. What a fantastic way to celebrate the holidays!

Give It a Try

Are you ready to go shopping? Grab some friends and family members to join you in trying out these activities:

  • Want to know what items are in high demand for gifts this year? Ask an adult friend or family member to help you find advertisements from major stores for their Black Friday sales. Take some time to look through the ads and see which items are really popular this year. Also, compare the prices at different stores to find the best deal. Use your math skills to calculate the percentage discounts by comparing the Black Friday sale prices to the regular prices.
  • With the holiday season approaching, you might be thinking about what gifts you want to give to others. Black Friday is a perfect day to start planning your shopping. Instead of just buying something, consider doing something special for someone else. Think about how you can make someone’s day with a heartfelt gift.
  • Is your community participating in #GivingTuesday? Visit GivingTuesday.org and check out the map to find the nearest chapter to your home. You can also learn more about the organizations that are participating. If there’s a cause that you really care about, discuss with your family the possibility of donating or volunteering your time to that organization.

Useful Sources

  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Friday_(shopping)
  • http://useconomy.about.com/od/demand/f/Black_Friday_Name.htm

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