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Black Friday - What Meaning Does it Hold For You?

Updated on September 29, 2011

If you live in the United States you probably need no introduction to Black Friday. For all of those that live elsewhere the name Black Friday may have a completely different connotation, mostly negative.

That being said if you Google "Black Friday" very little other than Black Friday ads for the upcoming shopping season in the United States appears under the first 100 results. "Black Friday" (on phrase match) has 44,700,000 results and I'm sure that somewhere in the results you will find information pertaining to other Black Fridays.

Black Friday at Best Buy
Black Friday at Best Buy

Before we get into the obviously very popular Black Friday in the United States let's take a quick look at definitions of Black Friday and some other dates referred to as "Black Friday"

Definitions of Black Friday:

Business definition of Black Friday

  • any precipitous one-day drop in a financial market, originally September 24, 1869, when prospectors attempting to corner the gold market caused a business panic followed by a depression

Other Definitions for: Black Friday

  • A Friday darkened by catastrophe.- In a more general sense, any Friday in which a public calamity occurred.

  • ''(US)'' The day after Thanksgiving Day, generally regarded as the first day of the Christmas season, and the busiest shopping day of the year. More recently, the term Black Friday has been applied to the day after Thanksgiving in which retailers make enough sales to put themselves "into the black ink."

Black Friday 24 September 1869 - Business Black Friday

Black Friday, September 24, 1869, is a historical day on the New York Gold Exchange when the efforts of two speculators to corner the gold market resulted in financial panic in the United States. The United States Government had issued a large amount of money during the American Civil War with very little but credit to back these loans. Suspecting that the Government would buy back the "greenbacks" with gold a group of speculators headed by James Fisk and Jay Gould sought to profit off this by cornering the gold market.

The president of the United States at that time was Ulysses Grant. Gould and Fisk persuaded Grant's brother-in-law, Abel Corbin, to influence Grant into believing that the selling of gold was not advisable. Through Corbin they also persuaded Grant to appoint Daniel Butterfield as assistant Treasurer of the United States, who agreed to tip Gould and Fisk off whenever the government decide to sell gold.

Gould began buying large amounts of gold in the late summer of 1869 causing prices to increase and stocks to summit. The federal government sold $4 million in gold when Grant realized what was going on. On September 20 1869 Gould and Fisk drove the price of gold even higher by starting to hoard gold. By September 24, later to be coined Black Friday, the price of gold was 30% higher than when Grant took office.

This price was however short-lived as the prices plunged within minutes when the government gold hit the market. Many investors, including Corbin were financially ruined as they scrambled to sell their holdings.

Friday Darkened By Catastrophe - Bombay Bombings

For the people of India Black Friday will always be associated with March 12, 1993 when a series of 13 bomb explosions took place in various parts of Bombay killing 250 and injuring over 700 civilians in a single day.

It is believed that these bombings were co-ordinated by a terrorist organization named D-Company in retaliation to widespread massacres of Muslims during the previous December and January as well as the demolition of the Babri Mosque by extreme Hindu groups.

On March 12 1993 the first car-bomb exploded in the basement of the Bombay Stock Exchange killing about 50 people. The second car bomb followed half an hour later and within 2 hours and 10 minutes after the first bomb 13 bombs had exploded. The greatest loss of lives occurred when a double decker bus was badly damaged in one of the incidents and it is estimated that a total of 90 lives were lost in this single incident.

An Indian film Black Friday was made in 2004 based on the book Black Friday - The True Story of the Bombay Bomb Blasts,  by S. Hussain Zaidi. This film attempts to recreate not only the bomb blasts but the aftermath of the bombings.

Following a court decision, this film was not released in India for two years after completion. This ruling was based on the fact that verdict was still pending and that the perpetrators argued that the film could bias public opinion against them. It was finally released in India on February 9th 2007 after the accused had been charged with Terrorist and Disruptive Activities.

Friday Darkened by Catastrophe - Scotland Riots

Image : Wikipedia Commons
Image : Wikipedia Commons

What Black Friday Means To Scotland

On 31 January 1919 one of the worst riots in the history of Glasgow Scotland took place and was later to be named  the 1919 Battle of George Square. It has also become known as  Bloody Friday and Black Friday. The widespread strike action revolved around a campaign for shorter working hours in the shipbuilding and engineering trades.

Prior to World War I the standard working hours were 54 hours a week. This was to be reduced to 47 hours during 1919 but a Joint Committee of shop stewards, members of the Scottish TUC and Clyde Workers' Committee however proposed a campaign to limit working-hours to 30 per week, which was altered to 40 per week after the Glasgow Trades Council became involved. It was however opposed by the Amalgamated Society of Engineers and most other unions.

The reduction of the working hours was an effort to alleviate the unemployment crisis which had been aggravated by the Post-World War I recession. The aim was to employ more people by reducing their working hours and share the available work as thousands of ex-servicemen returned to the civilian labor force. This was resented by most of the workers as in the process they would be losing their traditional morning break.

A strike action was called and started on Monday 27 January 1919. By Friday 31 January the strikers numbered 60,000 and during a mass meeting held on George Square on this day, a riot broke out. The clashes between the strikers and the police led the government to sending soldiers to the scene as they feared a workers revolution.

The cause of the riots is unclear as some sources indicate it was caused by an unprovoked baton charge by the City of Glasgow Police, whilst others indicate that strikers attempted to stop trams travelling through the square. The riots carried on throughout that day and into the night and many people, including women and children were injured.

Friday Darkened by Catastrophe - 1939 Bush Fires in Australia

For the people of Australia - Black Friday refers to 13 January 1939 when a firestorm broke out in Victoria and 71 people lost their lives. This was not only a Friday - it was Friday 13th. A drought that had lasted a few years and an abnormally long, hot and dry summer combined with extremely hot winds all contributed towards the spreading of fires that caused widespread destruction.

In the State of Victoria it was calculated that three quarters of the inhabitants were directly or indirectly affected by the disaster. Seventy one people lost their lives and almost 2 million hectares were destroyed in the fire. A Total of 69 sawmills burned down and thousands of livestock died from the intense heat of the flames.

Tribute to Those That Lost Their Lives in The Worst Fire in the History of Australia

Black Friday in Australia

Some smaller fires had started late in December 1938 and earlier in the January of 1939. These were mostly supposedly under control but the high temperatures combined with strong northerly winds on 13 January 1939 caused these fires to get out of control. The small fires were eventually joined to become one massive fire front that quickly swept across the mountain area in the north east of Victoria and along the coast in the south west.

In its wake it destroyed 1000 houses and a number of townships as the flames leaped across wide distances and fierce winds carried burning bark for kilometers ahead of the main fire - spreading fire to places that had not yet been affected. The fact that this region contained large areas of state forest meant that valuable timbers were killed.

Approximately 575,000 hectares of reserved forest, and 780,000 hectares of forested Crown Land were burnt. The intensity of the fire produced huge amounts of smoke and ash, with reports of ash falling as far away as New Zealand.

The devastation ended when rain fell across the state late on Sunday 15 January 1939. Today the dead Mountain Ash trees found in the Yarra Ranges National Park serve as stark reminders of the magnitude of those bush fires 70 years ago.

Friday Darkened By Catastrophe - Fishing Disaster in Eyemouth, Scotland

Friday 14 October 1881 is known as Black Friday by the inhabitants of Eyemouth, Scotland following the worst Scottish fishing disaster ever recorded. 

Black Friday Fishing Tragedy Memorial

Image : Wikimedia Commons
Image : Wikimedia Commons

The local fleet of fishermen in Eyemouth had been experiencing a few weeks of bad weather and were growing impatient. They needed to go out to sea to earn a living.

On Friday 14th October 1881, they awoke to a calm morning and chose to ignore the low barometer reading. Unfortunately a storm was brewing and by midday the entire country of Scotland was hit by a violent storm. The fishermen started returning home but many of them failed to reach the harbor.

Many capsized and others were destroyed as they were smashed on the Hurkar Rocks at the harbor entrance. Their poor families stood  on the pier looking hopelessly. 189 men lost their lives that day leaving 93 women widowed and 267 children without fathers.

The crew of one of the Eyemouth boats decided to head out to sea when the storm broke out and rode the storm until it had passed. Two days after the disaster, the 'Ariel Gazelle' limped into the harbor with the entire crew safe.

"Black Friday" will never be forgotten by the people of Eyemouth and many of the residents in the town are descendants of those who were lost that day. A Memorial stands at the sea front and to mark the centenary a commemoration service was held in Eyemouth in 1981. In the Eyemouth Museum a special tapestry hangs in the Memorial Room, recording the names of those that lost their lives and all the boats that were lost. 

Today, thanks to technology,  the town is the largest fishing port on the Southeast Coast of Scotland.

Memorial to Fishing Disaster 1881

Image : Wikimedia Commons
Image : Wikimedia Commons

Black Friday In The United States

Black Friday as a shopping day is unique to the United States and falls on the Friday after Thanksgiving, the fourth Thursday in November. Black Friday's date varies between the 23 and 29th November, depending on the date of Thanksgiving in any particular year. It is a busy shopping day as it traditionally marks the beginning of the holiday shopping season. As many people travel to be with family members for Thanksgiving many organizations close office on Black Friday to allow their staff to enjoy an extended weekend.

If you find that you need to make use of any service-offering organizations on Black Friday it is advisable to contact them and determine whether they will in fact be open for business on this day. Many employees who are not so fortunate as to work for such an organization, forfeit one day of their annual leave in order to enjoy the benefits offered by not working on Black Friday.

In the United States it has become extremely popular to start with Christmas shopping on Black Friday, egged on by the fact that most of the retailers offer special deals commencing on Black Friday. Electronics and popular toys are amongst the most popular items attracting special discounts as these are known to be traditional Christmas gifts. Many people shop on Black Friday only to re-sell these items on sites such as E-bay.

The trend followed by most retailers is to only offer a select few items at very cheap prices in an effort to attract shoppers to do their bulk Christmas shopping at their stores. Another tactic that is widely used is to offer an item on special promotion for a limited time period on Black Friday. As most of the special offers are on a limited number of these bargain items many shoppers camp outside the shops or stand in long queues to make sure that they are among the first shoppers when the stores open.

Crowds You Can Expect On Black Friday

You can expect congestion on the roads due to the high volume of shoppers despite the fact that many of the shops have extended shopping hours to accommodate the large number of shoppers. Keep in mind that you will need to brave the traffic congestion and large crowds in malls and shopping centers if you shop on Black Friday.

Contrary to popular belief Black Friday is not known to be the busiest shopping day of the year. In America the Saturday before Christmas is said to be the day that shoppers spend the most money and in the United Kingdom the Friday before Christmas is known as Black Friday and is apparently the day that the British spend the most money.

Nobody is quite sure as to where Black Friday in the States got its name. One popular theory is that its origins are connected to accounting practices where negatives are written with red ink and positives with black. The start of the Christmas shopping season is said to be the first day that retailers get out of the red and into the black ink. Another theory on the origin of the name is that the black refers to the black marks left on the roads due to the heavy traffic caused by the shopping frenzy.

The current economic climate has resulted in Black Friday specials being on offer long before Black Friday. With the limited consumer spending monies available retailers are trying to cash in as much as possible by advertising massive discounts earlier this year. Last year saw a lot of retailers that had overstocked compelled to slash prices into the new year after underestimating the effect that the recession had on consumer spending.

Thanksgiving and Black Monday were relatively late in November last year and only one day earlier this year. That means that there are fewer days between Black Friday and Christmas for retailers to sell their Christmas gifts and decorations. This is obviously also applicable to Cyber Monday - the day that supposedly marks the online shopping for the holiday season.

It is still to be seen to what extent shoppers will respond to early promotional offers but Black Friday will still see the so-called door-busters such as limited numbers of very low-priced goods to entice customers.

Even Black Friday Shopping Can Turn into A Catastrophe


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    • profile image

      Beyond Siri 

      9 years ago

      Yet another way to think of Black Friday!

    • sallyhatcher profile image


      9 years ago from Golden, Colorado

      If you are an online buyer then why you should have to wait in queue,

    • Laura du Toit profile imageAUTHOR

      Laura du Toit 

      10 years ago from South Africa

      Glad I could enlighten you EPman!

    • EPman profile image


      10 years ago from Queens, New York

      so much information included in here that I never knew about. Thanks!

    • Laura du Toit profile imageAUTHOR

      Laura du Toit 

      10 years ago from South Africa

      Thanks Pinkchic and thanks for the link!

    • Pinkchic18 profile image

      Sarah Carlsley 

      10 years ago from Minnesota

      Wow, this is an awesome hub. Lots of information here that I never knew, it's great to have! I featured your hub on mine titled "Thanksgiving Day - Planning for Black Friday Shopping" Keep up the great work!

    • Laura du Toit profile imageAUTHOR

      Laura du Toit 

      11 years ago from South Africa

      Thanks lostgirlscat

      Fortunately we have Cyber Monday when we can get those great deals in the comfort of our home

    • lostgirlscat profile image


      11 years ago

      Attended my first ever Black Friday, at Walmart no less.

      Results: 1 really great deal, a couple of pretty good deals,

      and the loss of my sanity. Final opinion: rates up there with my decision to have my daughter by natural childbirth,

      i.e.- no pain medication. Glad I did it, best choice all around, shoot me in the head if I ever decide to do it again.

    • Laura du Toit profile imageAUTHOR

      Laura du Toit 

      11 years ago from South Africa

      Thanks RNMSN

      Glad you enjoyed the hub. I agree a home-made gift is so much more personal.

    • RNMSN profile image

      Barbara Bethard 

      11 years ago from Tucson, Az

      I and my family returned to Alabama in 1995/that was the first I heard of the term Blk Fri/when I said I thought that was when the miners were all massacred in Scotland all I got were blank stares. After that, I was the only nurse working at the home health agency every day after thanksgiving...this is a fantastic article Laura! I hope it becomes an eye opener to many people!!

      This year will be handmade year for hubby, baby girl and I!!) I always love those best anyway :) love to you!!

    • Cagsil profile image

      Raymond D Choiniere 

      11 years ago from USA

      It was surely informative and well written Laura. Thank you.

    • Laura du Toit profile imageAUTHOR

      Laura du Toit 

      11 years ago from South Africa

      Thanks for coming by Money Glitch. Most of the catastrophes happened quite a way back. Its just that if you live in America you automatically think of shopping when you think of Black Friday. Just thought I'd let you know what other people think of when they hear "Black Friday"

    • Money Glitch profile image

      Money Glitch 

      11 years ago from Texas

      Wow, lots of information never knew there were so many meanings other than shopping. I like the idea of Black Fridays, however, very rarely get to participate in them. Either work or lack of having a friend that can go, prevents me from being a participant. It is unfortunate that so many bad incidents are occurring now. Thanks for sharing!

    • Laura du Toit profile imageAUTHOR

      Laura du Toit 

      11 years ago from South Africa

      Thank you Paradise - May have been less disturbing to have concentrated on the shopping but I suppose people need to know that there are other meanings to Black Friday.

    • Paradise7 profile image


      11 years ago from Upstate New York

      This was a most thorough and complete hub on Black Friday, and VERY informative. I was glad to read about something other than shopping, though my heart goes out to all those affected by the various disasters.

      Very well-written, very well done. Good job!

    • Laura du Toit profile imageAUTHOR

      Laura du Toit 

      11 years ago from South Africa

      Tim Tim - Thanks - I thought I should do something a bit different as there are tons of articles about America's Black Friday shopping.

      Judydianne - Thanks for coming by. Glad you enjoyed your Black Friday shopping and BTW there are a lot more catastrophic Black Fridays that I did not even mention in my hub.

    • judydianne profile image


      11 years ago from Palm Harbor, FL

      I always said I would never go to Black Friday shopping, but last year my daughter talked me and her younger brother into it and we had a blast. It was so much fun and we saved a lot of money. Yes, the crowds were huge but it was worth it.

      Good job on this hub. I didn't realize how many Black Fridays there were.

    • tim-tim profile image

      Priscilla Chan 

      11 years ago from Normal, Illinois

      Wow! Interesting:) I wrote about Black Friday shopping but nothing like this. Great hub:)Thanks.

    • Laura du Toit profile imageAUTHOR

      Laura du Toit 

      11 years ago from South Africa

      I only chose a few, There are many more catastrophic Black Fridays but then my hub hub would be too long!

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      Wow! Who knew there were so many disasters on Black Friday. It's the beginning of our annual craft/garage sale weekend for me.


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