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In the Western countries like USA and Canada, there is a shopping fest(festival) called Black Friday, I wonder why the word 'black' is added to it?

I think the 'word' black denotes some negativity or darkness. Why not call that Friday a Green or Yellow Friday because everybody is happy, everybody wins!

  • @CopperKettle edited my post maybe now it is more explicit – Dragut Dec 4 '15 at 11:53
  • In the USA (where the custom originates), Thanksgiving is a celebration which takes place on the 4th Thursday in November. Many (most?) people in the US get the Thursday and Friday off work. Since the actual celebration is on the Thursday, I guess many of them started going shopping on the Friday. The shops started competing for the extra customers by putting on sales, and there you have it, what is now called Black Friday was born. As to why it's Black, I have no idea. – Joseph Rogers Dec 4 '15 at 11:54
  • I have no idea if it's relevant or related in any way, but every other instance I know of where a day is called "black" refers to a day on which the stock market crashed. eg Black Monday occured in 1987 at the start of a worldwide recession. – Joseph Rogers Dec 4 '15 at 11:57
  • @JosephRogers when the stock market crashed? – Dragut Dec 4 '15 at 12:00
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    It was asked in EL&U before: english.stackexchange.com/questions/93365/… – ermanen Dec 4 '15 at 20:30
31

Black Friday was either first used in November 1951 to describe factory workers taking sick days, or in 1966 in Philadelphia to describe the rush of people coming into the city for Army/Navy football games.

The term 'black' for a bad market day was already established by sometime in the late 19th century, and the US had a historic 'Black Monday' and 'Black Tuesday' in 1929 which have been recognized as the start of the Great Depression, where the Dow Jones lost almost 25% of it's value over the course of both days. There was likely *a* Black Friday before then, but the term as used today seems to have originated in one of the following places:

  1. According to the an article in The Atlantic, the first modern(ish) use of the term was in an article of Factory Management and Maintenance in 1951, where it was associated with the widespread 'sickness' that seemed to befall factory workers the day after Thanksgiving. Already known as a big shopping day, it was recommended that factory management offer the day as an extra holiday as a 'bargaining chip' with unions, since the day was already one of relatively little production. The author used the term again in a February 1952 issue when mentioning that one company did indeed add 'Black Friday' to their list of paid holidays.

  2. Other Sources say Black Friday became widespread in Philadelphia as a term by police officers describing the awful traffic, crowds, and behavior of tens of thousands of people showing up for the annual Army-Navy game in the '60s and shopping while they were there and off work. It appears to have been in normal use by the police department as early as 1961 (along with "Black Saturday"). The term became used widely for the day after Thanksgiving, to the dismay of retailers who disliked the negative connotations. A couple of decades later, after some not-so-successful campaigning to change it to 'Big Friday', retailers finally accepted the name, and changed the meaning of 'black' to be the day that they went from 'in the red' to 'in the black', because of the revenue earned that particular day.

Clearly, the name did begin with plenty of negative intent. It has since been co-opted by clever marketers and, since the origin was forgotten, has lost the negative slant.

Snopes has a great rundown that lists the key quotes from several sources, if you're interested.

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    +1. Instead of rationalizations suggested by other answers, provides historical explanation. It does not make sense to promote "Black" as positive, but just accept existing name. Rationalization ("it puts profits to black") comes later, even if some people can "remember" it now - and it is completely irrelevant to buyers anyway. Let's see if this answer bubbles to the top. – Peter M. Dec 5 '15 at 0:34
  • BTW answer would be even better with a link to Black Friday in Philadelphia. And free tip: add some bold text and formatting to market your answer better :-) – Peter M. Dec 5 '15 at 0:36
  • @PeterMasiar thanks for the tip! I prettied it up a bit. – DrewJordan Dec 5 '15 at 1:57
  • Huh - Did you check Snope's sources? Sometimes they make things up and cite sources that cite Snopes as their source, which leaves us with the xkcd portrayal of Snopes. – Ben Aubin Dec 6 '15 at 1:25
  • They linked to the same sources I found elsewhere. They just summarized it nicely. – DrewJordan Dec 6 '15 at 3:26
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As explained to me in childhood. Black Friday is when stores expect to go into the BLACK. Many stores would run through the year reporting negative (red) earnings, but the massive spending would put their ledgers in BLACK (positive territory)

It is like saying 'Profits Friday' but was more catchy.

So it all stems from the old profits charts. Red ink was used for debt, black ink was used for profit. The more into the black you are the better your business is doing.

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    +1 This is the version I have been taught. As with all witty names, the actual etymology is not always straight forward, so that does not preclude any other versions from also being right. Names are just strange that way. However, this one makes the most logical sense to me, from the perspective of evolution of words. The term "black Friday" could easily have been used within the retail community for many years before it became a name recognized nation wide. – Cort Ammon Dec 4 '15 at 16:30
  • To expand a little, most retailers use a July - June fiscal year and their yearly expenses are in the Red until they hit the beginning of the Christmas shopping time of the year - when they get into the Black. – Hannover Fist Dec 4 '15 at 17:38
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    This may or may not be the correct answer, but it needs a citation, especially given the variety of explanations posted so far. – 200_success Dec 5 '15 at 1:52
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    That's not correct. It's made up after merchants decided to "own" the term. Whether the retail profits turn on that date depends greatly on the kind of business and the margins involved and the ratio of markup vs service income, so it would never be generally promoted as a thing. – JDługosz Dec 5 '15 at 8:41
  • @JDł - I think it's a given that not every merchant goes from red to black just after Thanksgiving weekend. That said, there are probably more than a few retailers who rely heavliy on a strong holiday shopping season. I'd be less inclined to deem this "not correct," and more inclined to say that it's at least partly based on retail folklore. – J.R. Dec 5 '15 at 10:46
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Since the 'reason' for that black word in Black Friday may not be found in dictionaries, I'm simply pasting this from a reputed site.

From About.com:

The Police Department coined the phrase to describe the mayhem surrounding the congestion of pedestrian and auto traffic in the Center City downtown area.

When Black Friday Became a Positive Name?

Retailers did not appreciate the negative connotation associated with a black day of the week. They had a good point.

For example, Black Monday was given to October 19, 1987. On that day, the Dow Jones Average fell 22%, the largest percentage drop on one day in stock market history. Here's more on the Dow Closing History.

Another dark day, Black Thursday, occurred on October 24, 1929. It was the day that signaled the start of the Great Depression. It was followed the next week by Black Tuesday. On that day, the stock market lost 11% despite attempts by major investors to support stock prices.

That destroyed any confidence investors had in the stock market, which in those days was perceived to be the economy. Many had invested their life savings and were entirely wiped out.

No wonder retailers wanted to make the name "Black Friday" mean something positive. And, to them, the Friday after Thanksgiving is a very profitable day. To compensate, they decided to follow the adage, "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em."

They used the name to reflect their success. Accountants use black to signify profit when recording each day's book entries. Red is used to mean loss. Therefore, Black Friday means profitable Friday to retailing and to the economy. See also "in the black".

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    Good answer, but you want a reputable site; a reputed site would be a location which is merely rumoured to be a site but may in fact be something else. – StoneyB Dec 4 '15 at 12:15
  • I think reputable shows its eligibility, 'reputed' is an established truth. @StoneyB – Maulik V Dec 4 '15 at 12:26
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    Collins:reputed;Collins:reputable. Reputed requires a complement to bear your construction. – StoneyB Dec 4 '15 at 12:34
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    You are one of the reasons I admire this site. In your little comments, you change my age-old (false?) learning! @StoneyB. I will not edit this answer because these comments are more important than that easily searchable answer! – Maulik V Dec 4 '15 at 12:46
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    @MaulikV I think you can edit the answer just fine. There wouldn't be any information loss problem in this case given that a) everyone can see edit revisions, and b) comments are kept intact. – Damkerng T. Dec 4 '15 at 14:10
3

In the U.S., the last (or fourth) Thursday of November was declared a national day of thanksgiving. It's been this way for a long time.

The phenomenon of Black Friday has gained traction much more recently as Christmas has become more commercialized.

I can remember (I think it was about 25 years ago), when I heard for the first time that the Friday following Thanksgiving Day had become the single biggest shopping day in the U.S. (Evidently, more and more families thought a day of shopping seemed like a good follow-up to a day of feasting.) I first heard this fact from my sister-in-law, who announced it as novel bit of trivia. I don't recall hearing that day called Black Friday, though, until relatively recently - with "black" referring to accounting sense of the word.

I make this distinction between the longstanding tradition of Thanksgiving vs. the relatively recent phenomenon of Black Friday because of your opening remark:

In the Western countries like USA and Canada, there is a shopping fest(festival) called Black Friday, I wonder why the word 'black' is added to it?

Even more recently, Black Friday is followed by Small Business Saturday (where consumers are encouraged to buy from smaller local stores, rather than "big box" chain stores) and Cyber Monday (where office workers allegedly continue their holiday expenditures by shopping on-line using their work computers). Really, though, these nicknames all seem to be driven by the commercial sector, with retailers using cutthroat gimmicks as they compete for consumer dollars. So, this isn't really an official, long-established festival, but more like a recent phenomenon. Only time will tell if these terms will stay entrenched, or be replaced down the road.

  • Black Friday now falls behind all of the Saturday's in December as far as big USA shopping days are concerned.. – Walter Dec 5 '15 at 0:13
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Actualy, there's no official definition. It started when americans got free days because of thanksgiving and a lot of them take this day to shop for Christmas gifts which is generaly 4 weeks after.

A lot of people are saying it's because markets go from red to black (which means profit), and in some case it's true. Since in majority of USA/Canada, income year for bussinesses begins in July, except Back To School, Black Friday is the sale that can negate debts.

Some people are talking about the negative impact of the word Black. An exemple, in French Canada (Quebec for instance), it's called Vendredi Fou (which means Crazy Friday) because Noir (black in French) is also Negative.

Others say it start in Black community of United States, but there's no real documentation about this.

And finally, there's even some trolls like it's in honour of the day Friday by Rebecca Black reached 1 million downvotes on YouTube.

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    I find this explanation best objective one,it seems it is commercial trick by monopoly but the another question is why other countries accept Friday rather than other days of week.Stemming of this festival from USA tells us that there is somebody playing a great role in business world. – user1474062 Dec 4 '15 at 20:24
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At the University of Glasgow, the last day of the trimester leading up to Christmas is "Daft Friday", with a ball that runs from 8pm to 8am.

The following day is "Black Saturday" - because everyone is dog-tired, hungover or both.

"Black Friday" is also a day after a day of notable celebration and consumption to excess, so may likewise be named for the feelings of exhaustion, and the need to recover from the celebrations of the day before.

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