Hearing the words "Black Friday" causes many people to contemplate the post-Thanksgiving shopping frenzy at the local mall. While not an official holiday, many people plan to spend at least part of the day shopping in preparation for Christmas gift-giving, and most retail locations do have longer hours than normal to accomodate this holiday rush.
Speculation suggests that the day after Thanksgiving is both the biggest shopping day of the year, and the point at which stores go from the "red" to the "black," meaning that they are finally profitable. This question has been debated for years. Some argue that a successful venture would need to be profitable year 'round, though there would obviously be a significant spike in sales during the holiday season. Other research suggests that large retail organizations were attempting to "spin" the term "Black Friday" that was already in use by those frustrated by huge crowds and shopping-related traffic issues during the first big holiday shopping day. Overviews of financial records of retail businesses confirm that while "Black Friday" is definitely a big shopping day, it is nearly always topped by the week before Christmas; the Saturday before Christmas historically is the biggest shopping day. On the other hand, some businesses are seasonal, taking advantage of this confirmed increase in retail spending and do rely on the short time they have to be able to return the following year! Either way, promoting sales a month before the procrastinators shop is a great marketing tool, and the spike in sales can be a useful benchmark to help shape the plans of the next year, regardless of whether a retail store is year round or seasonal.
Less well-known in this day and age are previous Fridays dubbed "Black Friday." These include September 24, 1869 when a group of gold speculators attempted to corner the market and wound up instigating a stock market crash. Since this popularly called "Black Friday," the term has referred to any Friday that a public calamity has occurred.
Other "Black Friday" events include the January 13, 1939 fires in Victoria, Australia. Considered one of the worst natural wildfires in the world, an estimated three quarters of the state of Victoria was affected, and several towns were completely destroyed. Add that to other calamitous events in Scotland, Iran, and England, among others, and it is clear that "Black Friday" is not a moniker limited to a single hectic shopping day in the United States. In fact, even the United States "shopping holiday" has had its tragedies. More than one person has been hurt, even killed, by mobs of shoppers rushing through store doors to get that all-important Christmas gift at a fabulous price.
So, while the day after Thanksgiving may not be a true holiday in every sense of the word, "Black Friday" is a good time to reflect on the past and indulge in happy hopes for the future.