How Black Friday took over the world

In countries all over the world, Black Friday is a major shopping day.

How Black Friday took over the world
Black Friday signage is seen at a store in Sao Paulo, Brazil, November 16, 2023. REUTERS/Amanda Perobelli

Thanksgiving is an American holiday (and a Canadian one, but they celebrate it on a different day). But Black Friday is for anyone with cash to spend.

Black Friday, which traditionally kicks off the holiday shopping season in the US, has been around since the 1960s. It started in Philadelphia, where tourists would flock to the city the day after Thanksgiving and ahead of the annual Army-Navy football game held on Saturday. The term “Black Friday” reportedly comes from Philly police, who had to work long hours in bad traffic and terrible weather to control crowds in the city that day. Local shops saw the day differently – as a chance to bring in holiday shoppers who were already around. They actually tried to rename the day “Big Friday” to give it a more positive vibe, but that never really stuck. 

By the late 1980s, this “holiday” had caught on around the rest of the US, and retailers started marketing for it. But by now, Black Friday has spread around the globe. In countries all over the world, Black Friday is a major shopping day. For instance, Germany contributes almost 13% of the global web searches related to the day. In China, Singles’ Day (11/11), is a bigger shopping day, but shoppers in the country can still expect deals later in November every year, though. Hong Kong shoppers can score some excellent deals with Black Friday sales in the city from both local and international retailers.

Today, Black Friday has spawned into a multi-day spending spree. There’s Black Friday, Small Business Saturday/Sunday, and Cyber Monday. Now, there’s also Giving Tuesday, which is all about giving to charities and contributing to your community. This year, Giving Tuesday is celebrating its 11th anniversary on November 28. 

“We pursue radical generosity, defined by the transformational powers of empathy and solidarity, not a series of transactions or discrete interactions,” the Giving Tuesday organization says. “Radical generosity creates a world in which the collective recognition of humanity fundamentally respects what each of us can give, receive, and learn from one another.”