The day after Thanksgiving has become recognized by retailers and shoppers alike as the official start of the Christmas shopping season, but why is it referred to as "Black Friday"?
One explanation offered frequently is that the expression refers to the day many retailers finally move out of the red, indicating losses, and into the black, representing profits. However, according to researchers at the American Dialect Society, the expression originated in Philadelphia and was first seen in print in the mid-1960s to describe the crush of pedestrians and bumper-to-bumper traffic that would descend on downtown to shop the day after Thanksgiving. This follows a long tradition of labeling any day of infamy or crisis as "black". It's only in the past few decades that a more positive, business-oriented connotation has been implied.
Often billed as the biggest shopping day of the year, in fact, Black Friday is not necessarily the day American retailers see the most dollars spent. According to the International Council on Shopping Centers, that title is usually claimed by the Saturday before Christmas.