Meaghan Kirby
November 14, 2016 10:10 am
STAN HONDA / Staff / Getty Images

The holiday season wouldn’t be the same without waiting in lines, trekking to local malls, and fighting for the new TV we want at a more reasonable price. Yes, we’re referring to Black Friday, a retail holiday we all know and love. Yet, few people know where exactly the holiday came from.

As with most unofficial holidays, there are more competing origin stories than a superhero franchise. The most common story of Black Friday lies in retail terminology. When companies are “in the red,” it means that they are operating at a loss and when they’re “in the black,” it means they’re turning a profit. Black Friday is the day when companies operating at a loss can make a profit before the end of the year. Sounds legit, right?

But the real origin of Black Friday is not as straightforward and is actually pretty dark.

The nickname was first used by the Philadelphia police in the 1950s, for the day after Thanksgiving, because of the chaos that resulted from an impending Army-Navy football game on Saturday. Fans and tourists flooded the city in droves, causing the police to work long shifts in an attempt to reign in the craziness.

Additionally, shoplifters would take advantage of the mass influx of people and would make off with stolen merchandise. Retail scholar Michael Lisicky summed up the experience to CBS Philly in 2011, saying,

By the 1980s, retailers took hold of the nickname, and after trying to unsuccessfully change the name to “Big Friday,” they began to embrace the term, thus the founding of the “red to black” story. While the origins of Black Friday are that of chaos and misery, it isn’t too far from how the day is generally perceived today. Every year, the day attracts a ton of negative stories, based on the violence and frustration brought on by the retail misery.

Ultimately, it’s good to know where the name came from because it says a lot about the holiday. Maybe this year, Black Friday will be a day of peace and tranquility. Here’s hoping! 😬

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