A Black Friday With a Silver Lining

‘Wednesday just don’t go,
Thursday goes too slow,
I’ve got Friday on my mind…’

The Easybeats; Friday on My Mind 1967

As November winds down, we head towards that decidedly oddly named day that signifies the centre of a whirlpool of capitalism: Black Friday. We have written before about the derivation of the word in its current form, but it is worth exploring the etymology again for the simple reason that nobody really knows exactly why it’s Black Friday. Historically, of course, the term ‘black’ when appended to a date has always been linked to a catastrophe. There have been no less than thirty five Black Fridays in history that have been coined for every nasty or unfortunate event one could possibly imagine.

The first Friday to have Black appended is more commonly known as Good Friday in our calendars, and commemorates the crucifixion of Jesus at Calvary. ‘Good’ was later preferred over ‘Black’ as the modifier because of its original meaning of ‘pious’ or ‘holy’. Another school of thought has it that ‘Good’ in this sense was derived from ‘God Friday’; we still use this derivation today in our daily communication when we say ‘Good bye’. This was originally a farewell wish: ‘God be with you’, the pronunciation mutating over time. (Which might be interesting news for atheists and agnostics who use the term regularly.)

The term in context of a ‘black’ or ‘bleak’ day faded from common use for around two millennia until 1869, when a financial scandal hit the United States gold market. This opened the floodgates as far as Black Fridays were concerned, and they have come thick and fast in the following century and a half. Some were definitely bleaker than others; probably the best known was the 1929 Stock Exchange crash in New York that triggered the Great Depression, which ultimately affected the entire world. There are Fridays that commemorate fires, floods, financial crises and battles with horrific outcomes (although it’s hard to think of a battle that hasn’t had an horrific outcome – it just depends on whose side you are on.) Tornados, bombs and governmental oppression – the list is scary and reflects the troubled history of humans in a collection of Fridays. Our eyebrows are still raised at the 2011 Black Friday, mind you: the seizure of some online poker sites doesn’t quite stack up with the 1881 Eyemouth disaster that saw 183 fishermen drown, the 1962 assassination of President Kennedy, or the 2015 string of terrorist attacks in France, Kuwait, Somalia, Syria and Tunisia. You’d have to be a dedicated gambler to understand that as a dark day.

But now there are the supremely popular world-wide annual Black Friday sales as mentioned above. ‘Black Friday’ as the name for this event was first mentioned in print in 1951 (by the otherwise completely forgettable ‘Factory Management and Maintenance’ magazine) and it referenced the disgruntled employers who bemoaned the fact that so many of their employees called in sick after the Thanksgiving weekend, extending it to a four day holiday so they could go shopping. Others say that it was named for the traffic jams that occurred on the Friday after Thanksgiving in the United States, but more detailed research showed that these crushes were in fact due to the start of the Christmas shopping season, and it wasn’t only the Fridays the overworked traffic department was concerned about. The first true sense of Black Friday as we now know it was in an article published in the New York Times on November 29th, 1975, citing that day as ‘the busiest shopping and traffic day of the year.’

Initially, retailers hated the idea of their best sales day being derisively called ‘Black Friday’; they still saw the term as denoting Bad Things Happening. Some reverse engineering was applied to the nomenclature by a bright spark in the Philadelphia Enquirer in 1981: he proposed that the term ‘black’ referred to the accounting practice of using red ink in the accounts books for losses and black ink for profits. A great day at the tills? We are in the black! The term stuck, although it’s unlikely that many people still remember why. But it has certainly become a 21st century phenomenon, and in all likelihood will continue expanding in commercial terms in the years to come.

Cruise on a luxury yacht into Table Bay with the late afternoon sun lighting the magical scenery.

And if it benefits the public, we are all for it! So much so that Waterfront Charters have instituted a Black November Special that we have been running for the entire month, and if you haven’t seen it or availed yourself of the opportunity yet, we highly recommend that you do so soon: all good things must end sometime, and our offer is valid until the 30th of November. We are offering a full 50% discount on our popular Pre-sunset Champagne Cruise: it’s the second last cruise in our daily schedule and fits the bill perfectly for guests who have evening functions or who have children that need to be home for bedtime. A cruise on a luxury yacht into Table Bay with the late afternoon sun lighting the magical scenery; iced sparkling wine for adults; a wide variety of other refreshments both with and without alcohol; sea life to marvel at; music to set the mood. It’s an afternoon adventure for young and old, and one you’ll want to repeat. Which, if you plan ahead, you can do at the same amazing price: vouchers once purchased are valid for 365 days – how’s that for beneficial advance booking?

This Friday may be Black, but the rest of the year is a rainbow of opportunity!