Over the years Black Friday has snowballed into one of the nation’s biggest sales bonanzas on the calendar.
If last year is anything to go by, crazed shoppers will stick to browsing online from home during the early hours to snap up coveted bargains.
A stark contrast to the early years when shoppers expected long queues and scraps over cut price TVs and toys.
In the US, Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving, when turkey-stuffed customers take advantage of the holiday to do some some shopping.
But why do we call this pre-Christmas scramble for bargains Black Friday?
The PR stunt
In the 1980s, the term “Black Friday” began to be used by retailers to refer to the single day of the year when retail companies finally go “into the black” (make a profit) after being “in the red” for much of the year.
But that’s not the only theory behind the name.
Rumours have also circulated that the term came from an invented tradition to sell slaves the day after Thanksgiving, while others think its original could be much more recent.
According to Joseph P. Barrett, who was police reporter for the Philadelphia Bulletin, the term “Black Friday” came out of the old Philadelphia Police Department’s traffic squad.
In an article from 1994 , the late journalist wrote that the cops used the term to describe the horrible traffic jams that happened when people poured into town on the Friday after Thanksgiving.
He wrote: “It was the day that Santa Claus took his chair in the department stores and every kid in the city wanted to see him. It was the first day of the Christmas shopping season. Schools were closed. Late in the day, out-of-town visitors began arriving for the Army-Navy football game.
“Every ‘Black Friday’, no traffic policeman was permitted to take the day off. The division was placed on 12 tours of duty, and even the police band was ordered to Center City.”
“Today the term seems lost in antiquity, but it was a traffic cop who started it, the guy who directed traffic with a semaphore while standing on a small wooden platform, in the days before traffic lights.”
In the early 1960s, Barrett put together a front-page story for Thanksgiving and appropriated the police term “Black Friday” to describe the terrible traffic conditions.
The name stuck and began spreading across the US, and then the globe.
Other uses around the world
Black Friday has also been used historically to refer to any awful event that happens on that day.
The first recorded use of Black Friday was applied not to holiday shopping but to the crash of the U.S. gold market on September 24, 1869, caused by two unscrupulous criminals.
Two ruthless Wall Street financiers, Jay Gould and Jim Fisk, worked together to buy up as much as they could of the nation’s gold, to drive the price sky-high and sell it for huge profits.
But on that Friday, the conspiracy collapsed and the market went into free fall and bankrupted everyone from Wall Street bankers to farmers.
Another Black Friday, January 31 1919, refers to the Battle of George Square in Glasgow – one of the most intense riots in the city’s history.
The dispute revolved around a campaign for shorter working hours, backed by widespread strike action.
Dozens were injured, and as a result the working day was shortened.
It has also been used to refer to bad days of battle in the Second World War, devastating Australian bush fires and a peaceful protest in Malé, the capital of the Maldives, which saw police firing teargas on protestors.
More famously, it was the day in November 1910 when hundreds of suffragettes marched on Parliament in peaceful protest and were assaulted and arrested by police.
If you want to find out more about this year’s event – take a look at our detailed guide on when Black Friday 2019 will take place and early predictions for the biggest deals.