We are already in the holiday shopping season, and Black Friday- one of the busiest shopping days of the year- is around the corner. On this day (traditionally the day following Thanksgiving) a massive number of shoppers head to stores in a bid to find the best available deals.

It could be easy to be overwhelmed by such crazy deals that one might overlook its origin. But if you are here now, it means you have finally decided to understand the “whys”, the “whos” and the “whats” of Black Friday. This will hopefully give you a great talking point to distract yourself while lining up outside Asda supermarket on Friday at 4 a.m.

Black Friday 101

Early origins

The term Black Friday was used earlier than most people might think, and it had nothing to do with holiday shopping but everything to do with a financial crisis. On Friday, September 24, 1869, (first recorded use of Black Friday) the U.S. gold market crashed after two notorious Wall Street financiers, Jim Fisk and Jay Gould, had the idea to buy huge amounts of gold hoping it would significantly increase its price and thereafter sell it for massive profits. The conspiracy was exposed that Friday, leading to the collapse of the stock market.

Other Black Friday Stories

In the pre-digital era, when shops in the U.S. recorded data by hand, financial gains were noted in black while losses were noted in red. As the story goes, most shops were “in the red” during the year (operating at a loss) and later “went into the black” the day following Thanksgiving due to the huge amounts of money spent on discounted goods. This happens to be the most popular, though inaccurate, story behind the origins of Black Friday.

In 2014, another story surfaced through a Facebook post suggesting that Black Friday dated to the time of slavery in the U.S. when traders could purchase slaves at a discounted price the day after Thanksgiving. This was to provide plantation owners with more workers to prepare for the harsh winter season. This story turned out to be inaccurate.

The First Accurate Post-Thanksgiving Link to Black Friday

In the 1950s, police officers in Philadelphia were the first to use the term “Black Friday” to describe chaos and traffic jam that arose the day after Thanksgiving when large crowds of tourists and shoppers came to the city in advance for the Army-Navy football game that was set that Saturday every year. This meant that police officers in Philadelphia were not able to take the day off, and would instead have to endure long shifts so as to deal with the crowd and shoplifting opportunities it created, hence the name “Black Friday”.

This name spread throughout the city, though a good number of merchants tried to change the name (due to its negative connotation) to “Big Friday”. Needless to say that it was an unsuccessful attempt.

A few years later, the term “Black Friday” spread across the nation. In the 1980s, retailers found a positive way to neutralise the negative connotation this term had using the “red to black” concept earlier mentioned. This is how it finally became linked to post-Thanksgiving sales and its darker connotations were largely forgotten.

Congratulations! You just completed the “Black Friday 101 Course”. While you are preparing for Black Friday, it is important to remember that, excessive shopping seriously harms your savings and the savings of those around you, so, shop responsibly!