Black Friday takes place on the day after Thanksgiving, and is the unofficial start day for the Christmas shopping season, and the Christmas season in general. In 1951 the journal Factory Management and Maintenance referred to the day as "Black Friday," when referencing workers who called in sick the day after Thanksgiving in order to have a four day weekend. This meaning of the phrase didn't stick, but soon afterwards the phrase began being used by police in Philadelphia and Rochester to refer to the large crowds of shoppers, and the huge amount of vehicle traffic on the day. From that time forward, the phrase gained the meaning it has today. It first appeared in the New York Times in 1975, and by the early 1980's it was popular across the United States.
Many non-retail workers and schools have off on the day, making it part of a four day weekend—an ideal time for shopping. It has been the busiest shopping day in the United States since 2005, and many stores have special deals in order to bring in shoppers. Initially, many stores had a 6 AM start time, but start times have now become earlier and earlier. In 2011 some stores began opening at midnight; and in 2012, Walmart and some other retailers began opening at 8 PM on Thanksgiving. Some stores now even open earlier than this. Shoppers are often seen camping outside of stores waiting for their doors to open.
The opening of stores on Thanksgiving has been controversial, and some states have even banned it. Another controversy has been the incidents of injury that have occurred at stores, while customers are rushing into them, or fighting over items. Most injuries have been minor, but some deaths have occurred. Although Black Friday is still the biggest shopping day of the year, it is losing its prominence as sales begin before the day, and because of an increase in online shopping, which is exemplified by Cyber Monday.
How to Observe
Celebrate the day by going shopping. Look for deals and find out what times different stores open at. Camp outside of a store and be one of the first people inside. If you don't want to shop, you could just visit stores and experience the day as a spectator. Above all, stay safe!