It’s a week before Black Friday and you’ve likely received tons of emails from multiple retailers reminding you to catch the “best” deal of the year. On top of that, you’ve probably caught a few work-colleagues eyeing up Amazon’s latest gadget on their computers, and no doubt some family members have already begun writing their sizeable Christmas lists.
But before indulging in the latest discounts, I would like to share the origins of this often stressful day, which by no coincidence, occurs one day after Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving began in 1621 when Pilgrims invited local Native Americans to feast on the first successfully harvested corn of the ‘New World’. Since then, Americans celebrated Thanksgiving on and off for years and on different days (depending on local custom), but it was President F.D. Roosevelt who finally gave it an official day in 1941: the fourth Thursday of November.
After years of workers calling in sick the following Friday, businesses began adding this day to their employees’ annual holiday, giving people free rein to hit the stores.
In the 50s, the Philadelphia Police Department labelled this day “Black Friday” because flocks of people would take over the Philly streets to do some serious shopping. This meant trouble for the department who struggled to manage the chaos, traffic jams and high levels of crime that were caused by such big crowds.
The catchy term quickly caught on in the rest of the U.S, so major retailers used this to their advantage by establishing annual sales promotions and extended opening hours.
As a result, Black Friday became the unofficial beginning of the Christmas season, the busiest and more worryingly, one of the most dangerous shopping days of the year.
From physical injuries caused by the flood of customers –sometimes life-threatening – to fights (both physical and verbal) ignited by shopping or road rage, Black Friday isn’t without its consequences, with many critics boycotting it altogether.
Additionally, excessive consumerism has led many to question the ethics behind Black Friday and how it contributes to things like fast-fashion and needless spending.
It must be said, however, that Black Friday is widely embraced in the UK, with 91% of stores taking part in 2017. In the end, taking advantage of a sale for an item you’ve been eyeing up all year is by no means a bad thing.
Well, now you know Black Friday’s history, it’s up to you whether you want to queue for 3 hours for a wide-screen TV or opt for that massive (maybe too-good-to-be-true) online discount.
Whatever you do, don’t forget your Christmas spirit. Happy shopping … and be kind!
Fun fact: In the UK, the expression “Black Friday” originally referred to the Friday before Christmas. Police and NHS workers used the term because of the increase in workload on this day due to excessive festive drinking. At the start of the 21st century, US-based companies like Asda and Amazon introduced Black Friday to the UK and the phrase took on a whole new meaning.
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