I am as guilty as anyone of the marathon shopping that has become a normal part of celebrating the Holiday season. Even so, I was never a big fan of facing the crowds or dragging myself out of bed after having knocked myself out with a healthy dose of tryptophan (really a myth), courtesy of the Thanksgiving turkey.
(Though I did enjoy popping into the local mall before work a couple of times to bang out a few gift purchases!)
Black Friday is a day we take for granted now, practically a holiday in its own right—such an ominous moniker for the season of light it kicks off! We think we know where the name came from, what it means for retailers and well, it really isn’t that old of a tradition, right?
THE FRENZY BEGINS!
The origin of Black Friday goes back farther than I thought, all the way to the late nineteenth century! It makes sense because that is when large department stores began hosting Thanksgiving Day parades that featured Santa Claus as the grand finale—Santa’s in town! Bring on the gifts!
LET’S BUST SOME MYTHS!
For starters, there are conflicting reports about its importance (numbers can be sliced and diced however you want), but suffice to say Black Friday is truly a key day for retailers, but on par with other days in December.
That said, Black Friday is not necessarily the biggest gross sales day of the year—sometimes it is, especially in recent years—but usually the week before Christmas, especially the day before and the Saturday before, have been more lucrative.
But you say, “Black Friday is called so because it is the day retailers finally go ‘in the black’ right?”
Turns out that is a bit of spin-doctoring! By the 1960’s the influx of shoppers on The Day After Thanksgiving was dreaded by those dealing with crowds. In Philadelphia the police officers, taxi drivers, really anyone who had to get around in the melee, started using the term Black Friday (originally used to describe the stock market panic of September 24, 1869) to express their feelings about the day.
Though small shops may just hit the black ink in November, there is no way Walmart and Target and Macy’s are not showing profits for most of the year! Come on, let’s be honest, shareholders wouldn’t allow that.
BLACK FRIDAY…GRAY THURSDAY…ACTS OF VIOLENCE
What has become of the Holiday Spirit? Why do we place such importance on buying things to prove our love…or something?
Worse than that is the way shoppers have behaved on Black Friday: fighting (both verbally and physically) and behaving with herd mentality, trampling fellow shoppers and store staff. A Walmart worker was actually killed in a stampede when doors opened back in 2008.
OK I’M OFF MY SOAPBOX
In contrast to the devolution of the retail Black Friday, there is a movement in Kansas to make the day about Black family history. People are being encouraged to reach out to their elders and gather stories about their family. They can submit the stories for documentation in an oral history project.
I think that is a great thing for everyone to do! Thanksgiving and Christmas are supposed to be about family and friends. What better way to bring that back to the forefront than by engaging your family members in…a little personal History Fix!
I hope you had a great Thanksgiving and enjoy the coming Holiday Season!
Did you shop today? Did you go for the deals, or is it more of a tradition for you? Share in the comments! Don’t forget to check Facebook for more on Black Friday and Thanksgiving too!
Fletcher, Dan, “A Brief History of Black Friday,” Time Magazine, November 27,2009, http://content.time.com/time/business/article/0,8599,1942935,00.html
Tanner, Beccy, “New Black Friday Encourages Sharing of Black History, Memories,” The Wichita Eagle, November 23, 2014, http://www.kansas.com/news/local/article4080514.html
Trex, Ethan, “A Brief History of Black Friday,” Mental Floss, November 29, 2013, http://mentalfloss.com/article/31581/brief-history-black-friday
Wikipedia, “Black Friday (shopping).” Last modified November 24, 2014, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Friday_(shopping)