Black Friday is the name given to the day following Thanksgiving, which is traditionally the beginning of the Christmas shopping season. On this day, most major retailers open extremely early, often at 4 am, or midnight or nowadays on Thanksgiving night. To work that turkey off they have promotional sales to kick off the holiday shopping season.
Black Friday is not an official holiday, but judging from commute time and crowds in stores you might think so. It has routinely been the busiest shopping day of the year since 2005 although news reports, which at that time were inaccurate, have described it as the busiest shopping day of the year for a much longer period of time.
Now that lots of stores are opening on Thanksgiving (Thursday) there may soon be a name change. Sales and the usual strange stories abound on this day. This now seems to be the kickoff for the holiday shopping season. Have the turkey and then jump in line.
The news media has long described the day after Thanksgiving as the busiest shopping day of the year. In earlier years, this was not actually the case. According to wikipedia in the period from 1993 through 2001, for example, Black Friday ranked from fifth to tenth on the list of busiest shopping days, with the last Saturday before Christmas usually taking first place. In 2003, Black Friday actually was the busiest shopping day of the year, and it has retained that position every year since, with the exception of 2004, when it ranked second.
The day's name originated in Philadelohia, perhaps back to around 1961 where it originally was used to describe the heavy and disruptive pedestrian and vehicle traffic which would occur on the day after Thanksgiving.. Later an alternative explanation began to be offered: that "Black Friday" indicates the period at which retailers begin to turn a profit, or are "in the black".
So why do we call it Black Friday ?
By the early 1980s, an alternative theory began to be circulated: that retailers traditionally operated at a financial loss for most of the year and made their profit during the holiday season, beginning on the day after Thanksgiving When this would be recorded in the financial records, the once common accounting practices would use red ink to show negative amounts and black ink to show positive amounts.