Most of us think that the term Black Friday originates from “in the black” which in accounting terminology means for turning a profit. After all, the day after Thanksgiving is one of the biggest shopping days of the year and represents the beginning of the huge Christmas Sales season.
The truth is, however, that the term relates to a darker past. The Holiday shopping season began with a bang offering unbelievable deals right after Thanksgiving many years before the term Black Friday was coined. Similar to what happens today, stores were mobbed, traffic was jammed, and people, being people, often behaved badly in an effort not to miss these deals.
The scene in Philadelphia, where the Army-Navy football game was regularly played on the weekend after Thanksgiving, was especially bad. Legend has it, that around 1966, the Philadelphia Police Department began to refer to the day after Thanksgiving as “Black Friday” with the hope that people would find the craziness of this period distasteful and opt out of the madness. It was a derisive terms to reflect a really bad day in the life of a Philadelphia policeman.
The term rapidly gained in popularity, but not for the reasons originally intended. By the 1980’s, the idea that “Black Friday” referred to the notion of retailers trying to move their companies into the black gained steam. Finally, the retailers got on board, and coopted the term creating one of the biggest sales days of the year.