The History Of Black Friday & Cyber Monday, From One City To The Biggest Sales In History

Thanksgiving is the one day every year when I feel no shame for eating literally nothing but pumpkin pie for 24 straight hours — but it goes beyond that for many, too. Contributing to the excitement that surrounds the holiday are the days that immediately follow: Black Friday and Cyber Monday, arguably the two biggest shopping days of the year. Interestingly, though, the history of Black Friday and Cyber Monday reveals that the popularity of these events was truly a collaboration between retailers and eager shoppers.

The backstory of Black Friday isn't unanimously agreed on, but according to one common story, the big shopping day dates back to the 1950s. In Philadelphia, shoppers would head into the city after Thanksgiving was over to take advantage of the big sales occurring right before the Army-Navy football game that happened annually the Saturday following Thanksgiving. Traffic cops worked extra hours, streets and sidewalks were flooded with people, and chaos filled the stores. "Black Friday" became a joke to describe the mass shopping event.

Some argue that this story is a myth, though — which is where this second explanation of the name comes in: When shops operate at a loss, they're "in the red." When they profit, they're "in the black." Thus, by this explanation, the term "Black Friday" is a nod to the massive profit stores made on this huge shopping day.


Then, toward the end of the 1980s, retailers started branding Black Friday as the big pre-holiday shopping day. It turned out to be more than a one-day event, and birthed its own spin-off retail holiday: Cyber Monday.

Cyber Monday turns 11 this year. The name was initially coined by the National Retail Federation in 2005, supposedly parallel to faster internet connections and the growing convenience of online shopping. At the time, Cyber Monday wasn't really a "thing" yet; in fact, it was only the 12th busiest shopping day of the year, surpassed by much of December. However, retailers realized that the increased holiday shopping continued well past Black Friday; so they started offering online deals through Monday as an extension of Black Friday, and the shoppers flocked. For this reason, Cyber Monday was somewhat of a self-fulfilling prophecy: Retailers further offered an opportunity for consumers to buy, and buy they did. More and more, every single year.

Fast forward to this year, and the upcoming Cyber Monday is expected to be the biggest online shopping day in history, with a projected growth of 11 percent from last year, and $91.6 billion in online sales.


Cyber Monday is awesome if you're like me and prefer to avoid crowds. But if you've got a thick skin and a brave soul, and you decide to tackle Black Friday head on, be kind to employees and other shoppers, and for heaven's sake, no punching.

Images: 20th Century Fox; Giphy (2)