I'm sure you haven't heard about this anywhere else, but today is an unofficial folk holiday of sorts called "Black Friday." I know it's early yet—10 a.m. where I am—but it has actually already started.
I admit ignorance as to Black Friday's customs and origins. However, here are a few guesses:
• It's the day retailers transform goods into money using black magic.
• Religious? "Good Friday" commemorates the day when Jesus got crucified and died. I know that doesn't sound like a good day on the face of it, but you need to know the whole story. "Black Friday" commemorates the day Brian of Monty Python's "Life of Brian" took an ass to Jericho to try to get a new pair of sandals at 30% off, but got beat out for the last pair by a pushy vintner's slave's wife. He forgave her.
• Today, residents of New York City all wear black clothing. Oh wait, that's every day.
• In my brother's neighborhood they have a 5k run every year called the "Trot Off Your Turkey." This puts everyone in black mood, especially those who think about participating but don't.
• The day Wal-Mart shoppers traditionally trample each other as an observance of goodwill, joy, and peace among men.
• A day when sales really are sales and good bargains really are bargains and claims of savings really do represent savings. This surprises everyone.
• It's the day when you, dear TOP reader, are blindered and blinkered to the blandishments on every side, like a rich merchant threading his way through a bazaar of beseeching beggars all around, and go to Amazon's Black Friday Deals page or B&H Photo's Black Friday Super Steals to stock up on everything from cards to socks, thus avoiding the crowds, the weather, and the general mood of madness abroad in this great land, getting your shopping done from the warmth and comfort of your own cozy home, and we all live happily ever after.
Whatever it means, have a nice Black Friday!
P.S. Also, don't forget that today is the last day of the book sale for The Origins of American Photography by Keith Davis. Here's the page; enter the code "12555" at checkout to get half off. Note that the discount doesn't show up until the last screen. This sale has been a spectacular success; many thanks to everyone who purchased one.
Original contents copyright 2016 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved. Links in this post may be to our affiliates; sales through affiliate links may benefit this site.
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Featured Comments from:
Richard Tugwell: "What is Black Friday—and why do we suddenly have it here in the UK? Sounds like some kind of weekly plague."
Mike replies: It's odd but not surprising that it should be exported to the UK. It's caused by the fact that American Thanksgiving is always on a Thursday, and most Americans also get off from work on the Friday between Thanksgiving and the ensuing weekend, and, since everyone's home with nothing to do, it seems like a good day to go shopping and get some Christmas shopping out of the way. Retailers then noticed that they have better Christmas seasons when they encourage more people to start shopping earlier, so they started to encourage the behavior with sales. Gradually it got more and more popular, until people seemed almost to go crazy about the sales, leading in a few cases to fights in stores over merchandise and several terrible incidents of people being trampled to death by pressing crowds.
Along the way, establishments started opening earlier and earlier in the morning, until the sales started invading the evening before. Traditionally, there was a sort of informal taboo on Christmas selling, shopping, and decorating until after Thanksgiving was over, and, as much as was feasible, everyone observed everyone else's right to be home with their families for Thanksgiving. That taboo fell before the onslaught of Black "Friday" sales a handful of years ago.
Now, it has gotten absurd. Retailers force people to work on Thanksgiving itself in order to start Black Friday sales on Thursday, and the whole Black Friday mania has infected many days on either side of the actual day to varying degrees. Because I like Thanksgiving, I've been rather disapproving of the deleterious affects of Black Friday on our Thanksgiving traditions. But whaddaya gonna do?
Romano Giannetti: "...Spain too has (since a couple of years) Black Friday. Even if we do not have any Thanksgiving, mind you. Same sales, same craziness and traffic jams as on the other side of the pond. Globalization for you!"
William: "The BBC has weighed in on this. It's a long scroll to the end of the article."
Mike replies: That seems definitive given my research as well—including the report that retailers originally didn't like the term. So it's gone from a headache day for public servants in Philly to a global marketing phenomenon. Curiouser and curiouser, quoth Alice.