17 Ways Black Friday Has Changed Since the 1950s

Source: ALLEKO / Getty Images

1. The holiday used to be later

Thanksgiving used to be celebrated on the last Thursday of November after President Abraham Lincoln declared it a national holiday in 1863. But in 1941 Congress passed a law officially moving the day to the fourth Thursday of the month because businesses complained that they would go bankrupt if the day fell too close to the end of the month. Most people start their Christmas shopping after Thanksgiving, which meant a shorter shopping season. Sometimes, like this year, however, Thanksgiving still falls on the last Thursday of the month.

Source: hubbardcoe / Flickr

2. “Black Friday” stood for traffic jams and crowded stores

According to legend, the Philadelphia Police Department named the day after Thanksgiving “Black Friday” in the 1950s or early 1960s. The police used the term to describe the terrible traffic jams and crowds. Enforcing law and order on a day when so many people are trying to get the best deals must be a dark experience indeed. “Black Friday” was first used in an ad in 1966 by a store — located in Philadelphia — that sold stamps.

Source: jopoe / Flickr

3. Black Friday is more of a season and less of a day

Ads about Black Friday deals appear on TV, radio, billboards, etc., long before the big shopping day. People start researching and signing up for notifications even before that. Shopping starts on Thanksgiving and doesn’t end until at least five days later on Cyber Monday. More than 164 million consumers — or about 78% of the U.S. adult population — were shopping during this period last year.

Source: Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

4. Half of shopping is done on Black Friday

Judging by the big crowds at malls a day or two before Christmas Day, you’d think everybody was a procrastinator. In reality, however, about 60% of adults already made half of their holiday purchases on Thanksgiving, Black Friday, or Cyber Monday, according to a survey conducted by Toluna, which creates online questionnaires.

Source: Milkos / Getty Images

5. Sales rise every year

People seem to be spending more and more on Black Friday. With the understandable exception of 2008, a recession year, sales have steadily gone up over the last 15 years by an average of 2.5%. People spent more than $717.5 billion in 2018, up from $416.4 billion in 2002.