In the United States, Black Friday is the term used to describe the day after Thanksgiving. The inception of the term's use dates back to the early 1960's and describes what is perhaps the busiest shopping day of the year. It is a day known for steep discounts, sales and long lines. Originally the term emanated as a description of the heavy and disruptive pedestrian and vehicular traffic. Thereafter, it came to represent the day of the year in which retailers begin to turn a profit or become "in the black".
There was a time when the Friday after Thanksgiving was celebrated as the unofficial kickoff to the holiday shopping season, in a happy and money saving way. Retailers were happy for the increase in business and consumers were happy to obtain significant savings and to get into the holiday spirit. After all, it is touted to be "the most wonderful time of year". Unfortunately, in recent years Black Friday has taken on a darker meaning, as a day filled with crowd control problems, criminal activity, injuries, car accidents and subsequent lawsuits.
On Black Friday 2006 in Roanoke, Virginia, an angry male shopper violently assaulted another shopper in a merchandise dispute. On Black Friday 2008 in Valley Stream, NY, a 34 year old Walmart employee was trampled to death upon the stores opening by a crowd of approximately 2000 people. On Black Friday 2010 in Madison, Wisconsin, a woman who cut the line at a Toys R Us threatened to shoot anyone who objected. In Georgia in the same year, a Toys for Tots volunteer was stabbed by a shoplifter.
Over the years, stores have transgressed from relatively normal business hours on Black Friday to opening in the early morning hours, to last year when many opened at midnight. This year, not to be outdone, many stores will open on Thanksgiving Day itself. Many question whether or not this is a result of ostensible greed or a patent inability to "enjoy the moment". Others question whether or not opening on Thanksgiving Day will help quell the problems that have plagued Black Friday in recent years, or if it will augment the problems with people taking to the roads fresh off a day of "celebrating". Perhaps as we gather with family and friends this year in the wake of Sandy and in the midst of our very challenging economic times, we may be better served by simply taking the time to stop and spend at least one day to just give thanks. After all, it is still called Thanksgiving Day.