The Story Behind Black Friday’s Chaos


Black Friday is a day people anticipate after Thanksgiving to buy discounted gifts to prepare for the Christmas season. Black Friday is always set on the Friday following Thanksgiving, hence the name of the shopping tradition. This year, Black Friday will be on November 26, 2021. The holiday is the one day of the year, celebrated worldwide, where people splurge on discounted items.  

The origins of Thanksgiving and Black Friday go back to the 20th century. In 1939, president Franklin Roosevelt moved Thanksgiving up by a week so retail sales could increase. Originally, Thanksgiving was supposed to be on November 30th instead of the second to last week of November. This change allowed retailers to have a bigger time span between Thanksgiving and Christmas for consumers. The holiday date change stirred up backlash at first and some mocked the changed holiday as Franksgiving. Later on, Congress passed a law to make the fourth Thursday of November as the official day to celebrate Thanksgiving. 

However, many people assume the idea of Black Friday started with the saying “get in the black,” but this theory is false. The name for Black Friday came from the 1950s. The Army-Navy football game used to be a huge event hosted on Saturday, during Thanksgiving weekend, in Philadelphia. It was common back then for Army and Navy team fans to travel to Philadelphia the day before the game, which was Friday. The mob scene inspired stores to have a supply of clothes, gifts, and more the day before the annual game to commercialize the event. In the 1960s, the day became labeled as Black Friday by police officers, which was related to horrible traffic conditions. At one point, businesses tried to rebrand the holiday to “Big Friday” yet this title never reached the amount of attention as the name Black Friday.   

Unfortunately, Black Friday comes with some dangerous consequences of violence. In 2008, a Walmart employee named Jdimytai Damour was killed because he was knocked over by a stampede of people. Another Walmart incident during 2008 as well was in Columbus, Ohio, where a young girl pounced onto a man’s back and then punched him in the face over the man buying a Samaung flat screen TV she wanted. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommends stores to use bullhorns, police officers, and barricades to prepare for the worst on Black Friday. 

Last year, the pandemic caused a shift to an increase in online sales for Black Friday. In contrast, stores are expecting to open up in 2021 with social distancing restrictions. However, due to the pandemic many stores are struggling with supply shortage. Customers were more concerned about item availability than the rush of shopping for discounted prices. The company Adobe Analytics has released data reporting that there was a 21.6% increase in 2020 for Black Friday sales online compared to 2019. Despite the precautions and social distancing guidelines in place, hopefully this means there will be less physical fights between customers.  

Essentially, Black Friday is a day Americans anticipate for shopping sprees and exploring the best deals on gifts whether it’s in store or online. The shopping tradition psychologically promotes positive emotions because customers feel satisfied buying an item they have been longing for. Subconsciously, consumers are eager to be a part of a limited time offer and everyone doesn’t want to miss out on the opportunity. Gift-giving is one of the main motivations behind most customers on Black Friday. People tend to associate the price of a gift to the importance of the person. The holiday season is all about generosity, people find joy in letting others know they are thinking of them and vice versa. 

Every year, Americans hold such strong emotions tied to Thanksgiving weekend in our culture, yet people forget the history of the holiday. Black Friday is the glue connecting the gap between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Overall, people endure plenty of obstacles when shopping on Black Friday, but it is worth it in the end.