November 25, 2016
Where does a "holiday" so bizarre and manic in nature begin? In Philadelphia, of course.
Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving when retailers offer those can't-miss prices for holiday shoppers, got its name because businesses start offering deals to finish the year "in the black," or making a profit. At least that's how the common explanation goes.
But the name actually comes from the 1950s in Philly. As History.com explains, the Friday between Thanksgiving and the annual Army-Navy Game (usually held in Philly) was a day when suburbanites and tourists would descend upon the city to get their Christmas shopping done.
Philly cops weren't thrilled about it, and they came up with the Black Friday name for much darker reasons. Per History.com:
Not only would Philly cops not be able to take the day off, but they would have to work extra-long shifts dealing with the additional crowds and traffic. Shoplifters would also take advantage of the bedlam in stores to make off with merchandise, adding to the law enforcement headache.
By 1961, “Black Friday” had caught on in Philadelphia, to the extent that the city’s merchants and boosters tried unsuccessfully to change it to “Big Friday” in order to remove the negative connotations.
History.com notes the name caught on nationwide sometime in the 1980s. The holiday has since been commercialized to the nth degree, but the day is still associated with madness as shoppers are known to occasionally forget social norms and basic human decency in their pursuit of purchases.
Black Friday in Philly probably lit— Mo (@AsvpMo) November 25, 2016
Last year, PhillyMag rounded up some of the worst Black Friday fights and "horror stories" in recent memory. Naturally, two were from the Philly area. In 2014, a man was caught trying to impersonate a veteran in order to get military discounts at the Oxford Valley Mall. A year earlier, two women got into a stun gun fight at the Franklin Mills Mall.
Why do people act like this on Black Friday? Temple University professor of psychology Frank Farley explained to PhillyVoice last year that a combination of social facilitation — when being in a large group of people can change your behavior — and our reliance on products like electronics – which are sometimes in short supply — can create a devilish combination (you can Farley's entire explanation here).
En route to Philly for Black Friday pray for me— Brittany 🦃 (@BrittanytB) November 25, 2016
Not everyone who shops on Black Friday is a soulless bargain hunter, obviously. But the day has earned its reputation nonetheless. And it all started here.