Here's why we call the biggest shopping day of the year 'Black Friday'

  • The origin of the term "Black Friday" is murky.
  • The most popular story says that the name came from the fact that the day's sales are so great, it can push retailers "into the black." But the earliest reference to that is 1981.
  • But a Philadelphia Inquirer reporter claims he helped popularize the term.

Though most shoppers likely don't stop to think about why we call the day after Thanksgiving "Black Friday," all the same, many have wondered.

The most popular explanation is that the day's sales are so high, it can singlehandedly push a retailer from being "in the red," or losing money, into "the black," or solvency.

RELATED: Stores that will be closed for Thanksgiving and Black Friday 2017

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Stores that will be closed for Thanksgiving, Black Friday 2017
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Stores that will be closed for Thanksgiving, Black Friday 2017

REI

-Closed on Thanksgiving & Black Friday

(Photo by Robert Alexander/Getty Images)

Costco 

-Closed on Thanksgiving

Crate & Barrel

-Closed on Thanksgiving

Home Depot

-Closed on Thanksgiving

IKEA

-Closed on Thanksgiving

Marshalls 

-Closed on Thanksgiving

Lowe's

-Closed on Thanksgiving

Cabela's

-Closed on Thanksgiving

Neiman Marcus

-Closed on Thanksgiving

Petco

-Closed on Thanksgiving

TJ Maxx

-Closed on Thanksgiving

A.C. Moore

-Closed on Thanksgiving

ABT Electronics

-Closed on Thanksgiving

BJ's Wholesale Club

-Closed on Thanksgiving

Burlington Coat Factory

-Closed on Thanksgiving

Cost Plus World Market

-Closed on Thanksgiving

DSW

-Closed on Thanksgiving

Guitar Center

-Closed on Thanksgiving

H&M

-Closed on Thanksgiving

HomeGoods

-Closed on Thanksgiving

Apple

-Closed on Thanksgiving

Half Price Books 

-Closed on Thanksgiving

(Photo by Darren Hauck/Getty Images)

Hobby Lobby

-Closed on Thanksgiving

(Getty)

Jo-Ann Stores

-Closed on Thanksgiving

(Getty)

Nordstrom

-Closed on Thanksgiving

(REUTERS/Rick Wilking)

Nordstrom Rack

-Closed on Thanksgiving

(REUTERS/Brendan McDermid)

Office Depot 

-Closed on Thanksgiving

(REUTERS/Mike Blake)

OfficeMax 

-Closed on Thanksgiving

(Getty)

Pier 1 Imports

-Closed on Thanksgiving

(Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Jos. A. Bank 

-Closed on Thanksgiving

(Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

P.C. Richard & Son

-Closed on Thanksgiving

(Photo by Jb Reed/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Party City 

-Closed on Thanksgiving

Patagonia

-Closed on Thanksgiving

(Photo by Robert Alexander/Getty Images)

Publix 

-Closed on Thanksgiving

(Getty)

West Marine

-Closed on Thanksgiving

(Photo by John Patriquin/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)

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That reasoning first appeared in 1981, according to Snopes, but that's apparently years after the Philadelphia police had already coined the term "Black Friday." According to a 1994 article in the Philadelphia Inquirer that was written by one of the reporters who claims to have popularized the term, "Black Friday" was actually coined in the 1960s.

Black Friday has long been considered the start of the holiday shopping season, and since Thanksgiving is always on a Thursday, many schools and some businesses would be closed the day after. 

Stores, however, were not closed, causing a spike in traffic and crowds in Philadelphia's Center City. Police officers in the city started calling the day Black Friday, as they had to work 12-hour shifts to mitigate the madness. From there, the media got a hold of it, and the name was popularized.

The nickname caught on even after PR firms hired by department stores tried to change the name to "Big Friday" in the 1960s. It didn't work, and eventually, Black Friday spread across the US, morphing into the monument to holiday shopping we know today.

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SEE ALSO: Amazon has already launched its Black Friday store

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