Black Friday’s Origins: It’s ‘Black’ for a Reason

Another American consumer export: fistfights over flatscreens with zero giving thanks

Mitchell Peterson
5 min readNov 25, 2021


Photo by Jon Cellier on Unsplash

Have you ever wondered why it isn’t called ‘White Friday?’ Or since it’s about shopping for Christmas, why not ‘Green’ or ‘Red Friday?’ It isn’t even necessary to use a color and, because most people are out purchasing useless consumer goods for the holidays, it could be called ‘Santa’s Friday Off’ or ‘Elf Labor day.’

It should definitely be called ‘Elf Labor Day’ or ‘Get Shivved over an Espresso Machine Day.’

But, it is Black Friday for a reason. It emerged as a dark, negative thing that came after Thanksgiving and only got worse. That black cloud of consumer culture has gone global. In Prague, it isn’t even a day anymore and there are signs everywhere announcing ‘Black Week.’

Ninety percent of people I speak to abroad have no idea the Friday in Black Friday is because of Thanksgiving Thursday. There are retailers here and elsewhere that run Black Friday sales multiple times a year. It has completely disconnected from ‘giving thanks’ and become its own beast.

It is another one of America’s wonderful exports. Neverending marketing for mindless never-satiated consumerism. Sell, pitch, and hustle, and then buy, buy, buy.

Forget the ‘giving thanks,’ a new pair of Jordans, a smartwatch, and a cheap blender will make me happy.

The origins of Black Friday

The earliest uses of the term go back to the 50s and 60s. The Philadelphia police coined the term in response to the traffic jams and massive crowds that swarmed department stores from open til close the day after Thanksgiving.

It was a pejorative for a day of chaotic shopping.

The other use of the term was to describe the absenteeism experienced by shop owners because, to get an extra-long weekend, a huge portion of workers would call in sick the day after Thanksgiving.

There was an attempt by PR executives to change the connotation by calling it ‘Big Friday.’ The name didn’t stick, but marketers and advertising execs are a clever bunch, and the association did start to change.



Mitchell Peterson

Freelance writer who spent nine years outside the US, currently in rural America writing the Substack bestseller 18 Uncles.