History of Black Friday: One Day Only?


While it is difficult to connect this term to the start of the Christmas shopping sales season before its use in the mid-1960s in Philadelphia, the concept appears to go back to the 19th century when Christmas sales followed Thanksgiving Day parades. In 1939, President Franklin D Roosevelt set the date of Thanksgiving to the next-to-last Thursday in November rather than the last Thursday of the month, allowing an extra week of shopping before Christmas.


Black Friday History

On December 26, 1941, Congress officially made Thanksgiving the 4th Thursday in November. Though procrastinators usually make the shopping days immediately before Christmas the most profitable, Black Friday is undoubtedly one of the busiest shopping days of the year, if not the busiest.

Below are some helpful definitions for specific holiday terms used during this time of year:


  • Black Friday: a shopping holiday that begins earlier each year, once beginning at 7 am, then at 4 am (or even midnight), on the Friday following Thanksgiving. Starting in 2013, it slipped into Thanksgiving Day. Recently, Target stores opened Thanksgiving Day from 5 pm to 1 am Friday, then re-open at 7 am Friday morning. At one time, Black Friday was the official opening of the Christmas shopping season, given its name because of the belief that retailers would now be “in the black” (profitable) as opposed to “in the red” (losses), both historical accounting terms. However, this connotation of Black Friday did not arrive until the 1980s. The opening day phenomenon of Christmas decorations is now being eroded by Christmas Creep.
  • Christmas Creep: as I’ve written previously, this is the tendency of retailers to introduce the beginning of the Christmas shopping season along with attendant decorations and music earlier in the year to drive consumer behavior. Once occurring around Thanksgiving, it is now happening before Halloween. To give Black Friday Creep new meaning, this year, Amazon runs its Black Friday-worthy deals on November 24-25. This does not count its Early Black Friday Deals, which have been going on for days. Walmart‘s third (and final) Black Friday Deals for Days sale of 2022 started on Nov. 21 at 7 p.m. ET. Best Buy‘s 2022 Black Friday sale runs from Nov. 20 to 27.
  • O’Dark Thirty: an imprecise time, usually before sunrise, when the alarm goes off to signal the beginning of shopping with the illusory promise that sleep loss relates to saving money. The personal start of the orgy of predawn retail consumerism.
  • Carpe item: “Seize the sale offering” is that practice of not spending the time to examine an item but quickly just stuffing it in the shopping cart for later qualification while waiting in the long checkout line.
  • Tag-team: power shoppers technique of one getting in the checkout line with a partially filled shopping cart while the other does the real shopping delivering items back to the shopping cart while the blood pressure of those in the queue behind goes up.
  • TryptophanTryptophan: one of the 20 standard amino acids, a precursor to the neurotransmitter serotonin and the hormone melatonin, as well as an essential amino acid in the human diet. It is found in high levels in turkey and most other Thanksgiving meats, cheese, yogurt, fish, and eggs. Turkey has less tryptophan than chicken, but stay with me on this. When tryptophan is combined with considerable quantities of carbohydrates, it releases insulin and frees stored tryptophan to increase serotonin levels. Add to those inebriating fluids, and all of this has a soporific effect. Antidote: Black Friday.
  • Parking Vultures: people who circle the parking lot looking for shoppers who are leaving so that they might descend upon their parking spot.
  • Cyber Monday: three days later, when you can hit the virtual malls in your pajamas and slippers from the comfort of your computer. Initially named in the mid-aughts of the 21st century as an online alternative to the brick-and-mortar shopping mall crush, it too is subject to Cyber Creep as it moves earlier in the calendar, approaching and even preceding Black Friday. Also known as “pre-Black Friday Sale.” In the days of Coronavirus, Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales started before the beginning of Thanksgiving week, if not before.
  • Black Friday Black Humor: this article would be an example of that.


Black Friday Challenge

Will you be getting up at o’dark thirty on Black Friday to “carpe item” via tag-team following a typtophanian stupor as a parking vulture? Or will you do your brick-and-mortar shopping the Saturday before Christmas and your cyber-shopping the Monday or Tuesday before?


Bill Petro, your friendly neighborhood historian


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  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Anna Milvain, Craig Dunham. Craig Dunham said: RT @billpetro: New blog post: History of Black Friday http://bit.ly/4u8hGJ […]

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