Why is it called Black Friday?

DCUSA.Gallery10.TargetBlackFriday.Wikipedia
Target Black Friday by Gridprop at en.wikipedia [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
The day after Thanksgiving, Black Friday, earned its name for a variety of reasons.  Chicago Tribune’s Eric Zorn writes about several instances of the term throughout recent history, mostly having negative connotations.  Retailers sought to reverse-engineer the term to a positive light with folktales describing accounting records moving from red ink, indicating a financial loss, to black ink indicating a profit from the shopping season underway. 

The Holidays, festivals, and celebrations of the world dictionary, which we have in our Credo Reference database–will give the more empiricial description of the term:

Black Friday usually refers either to the infamous Wall Street Panic of September 24, 1869, when Jay Gould and James Fisk tried to “corner” the gold market, or to September 19, 1873, when stock failures caused the Panic of 1873. In England, it is often used by workers to describe May 12, 1926, the day on which the General Strike was ended. It is occasionally used to refer to Good Friday.

Shoppers and retailers in the United States sometimes refer to the day after Thanksgiving as Black Friday because it marks the beginning of the Christmas commercial season and is traditionally a frenetic day of shopping.

 

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