For most, Black Friday is the flag that signals the start of the holiday shopping season. It’s one of the busiest shopping days of the year and hauls in tonnes of profit from impulse shopping based on the heavily discounted deals available worldwide. But how did this ‘tradition’ start? 

Black Friday takes place the day after Thanksgiving, the holiday where communities gather and appreciate their health, family, friends and all the blessings they feel make their lives better. So naturally, the following day should encompass and strengthen those very values, right?

Well, not quite so. In 1939, retailers in the US urged Franklin Roosevelt to allow vendors to kick in with Christmas advertising the morning after Thanksgiving dinner came to an end. They even encouraged the start of the holiday season with the traditional Thanksgiving floats final spectacle featuring none other than Santa Claus himself. 

This appearance brought the verbal agreement, shared by retailers, to hold off Christmas promotion until the Friday following the last Thursday of November – Thanksgiving. Once the parades ended, families would rush around the shops, picking up small gifts and treats to take home with them – all of which were fueled by the cheer and festivity of Christmas. This is unofficially how Black Friday came into existence. But was it initially successful? 

Not really – there was quite a delay in Roosevelt’s response that caused retailers in America to lose profit and in turn, rebel against their President, calling the imposter holiday “Franksgiving”.

Since Roosevelt eventually agreed with this proposal (albeit too late in the applicants’ eyes), many were confused as to the genuinity of this season – this confusion lasted till 1941. Americans would use the ‘real’ holiday to spend time with their families, and the ‘new’ holiday as a reason to stay home from work and shop in preparation for the next big family get together. This seemingly voluntary ‘confusion’ lasted until Black Friday was officially declared to take place the day after Thanksgiving.

The name ‘Black Friday’ seems to have two origins. The first refers to retailers getting out of the red and into the black – profit wise, and the second relates to the bleakness of the day felt by police officers, cab drivers and service providers due to the increased amount of work and efforts they needed to enforce. Either way, today, the term ‘Black Friday’ still holds the same meaning: one of economic improvement for retailers and the other as an annoying influx of people in the streets, for those who stray away from the deals. 

While Black Friday originated in the US, the rest of the world caught up, creating full-blown campaigns, week-long deals and online offers that trapped the masses into the idea of saving a few bucks, just in time for the holidays. Locally, we’ve also taken on this approach to the week, with retailers trying their best to increase their profit margins, and shoppers trying their utmost to get the full Christmas shopping list out of the way. It’s a win-win, isn’t it?

Well, it depends how you look at it. In the US, there are numerous recordings of injuries, some minor, others quite critical, that happen due to the Black Friday crowds and swarms of people shoving and clawing at products. But economically, there’s a notable soar in the profit lines; so really, what is the outcome of this ‘holiday’. 

The commercial overload has definitely hit Malta, but will this year be the same? With COVID-19 restrictions putting people off hitting the brick-and-mortar shops, we might very well notice an increase in online sales which would definitely strengthen our economy. 

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