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Thanksgiving break is a time of reflection, relaxation, and catching up with loved ones. Less frequently addressed is the day that marks the beginning of the super-shopper holiday season and a capitalist’s dream known as “Black Friday.” Although many Americans flock to the stores in search of the best deals, some choose to refrain from the day and remain safe in the comfort of their homes.

But what led to the hundred foot lines filled with people who have found bargains too good to pass up: where and when did this name originate? According to blackfriday.com, historians attribute the term to Philadelphia stores’ use of black ink in the 1960s to indicate profit. Once the biggest department stores caught onto this profit, retailers across the country realized that they could join in on the game, and Black Friday quickly gained popularity.

The earliest known written account of the name can be found in the Factory Management and Maintenance journal, in which it was used to describe the phenomenon that occurred constantly the Friday after Thanksgiving—employees calling in sick to work, “a disease second only to the bubonic plague.” Instead of going into the office, evidently, they were at the malls and markets. Since then, retailers outside of the United States have attempted to promote the day with little success, meaning their competition with American companies was all but lost during the holiday season.

The whole placement of Thanksgiving can be traced back to Black Friday. For centuries, the specific date was altered by presidents attempting to unite the U.S. Eventually, President Roosevelt had the final say in 1939 that it would be either the second to last or final Thursday of November, depending on the year. This contributed to the increase in businesses’ overall advertising time.

The dark name is indicative of the recent dangers going out on Black Friday has posed for shoppers. In the last decade, eleven have died and over one hundred have been injured by crowds while participating in the rush. The most common acts of violence include tramplings, pepper-spray, and shootings. Evidently, customers are willing to risk it all for the sales.

With a growing technological world, a more safe and convenient alternative (or addition!) to Black Friday emerged. Soon, “Cyber Monday” became even more profitable for some companies—in 2020, this shopping option “surpassed Black Friday in terms of spending.” In other words, either more people are partaking in the event or bigger items are sold on that day so consumers do not need to worry about transportation of goods. The week has become such a huge shopping time that many places are open on Thanksgiving so that people can avoid the Friday rush.

Black Friday began purely out of coincidence because consumers all over the country were in the holiday spirit the day after Thanksgiving. Businesses took advantage of that occurrence and created an entirely new “holiday.” Some believe consumers control corporations while others remain certain that it is the other way around at this point, but whether you choose to go out or stay in… just stay safe out there this Thanksgiving break!

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Grace Woodhouse

Bucknell '25

Grace is an intended Sociology and Theatre double major from upstate New York. Her two favorite things are Starbucks and sushi.
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