Humor Series: Black Friday

History of Black Friday

One Day Only?

Bill Petro
4 min readNov 24, 2023

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Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

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…

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Bill Petro

Writer, historian, technologist. Former Silicon Valley tech exec. Author of fascinating articles on history, tech, pop culture, & travel. https://billpetro.com