What is Black Friday?

Cultural Heart


Posted on 28 Nov 2019

You may have heard that this year, retailers in Adelaide have been granted extended trading hours for Black Friday and can open until midnight on Friday 29 November 2019. Chances are you’ve seen Black Friday referred to in American movies or TV shows, but what is it and what does it have to do with us in Adelaide?

Simply put, Black Friday is the sales event that occurs after Thanksgiving and is followed by Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday and Giving Tuesday …

Whoa! That’s a lot of events! So, let someone who lived in the USA for six years help you navigate through the maze of sales and traditions.

First, let's talk turkey. Gobble gobble.

Thanksgiving is a holiday in the United States of America held on the fourth Thursday in November each year (not to be confused with Canadian Thanksgiving, held on a different day with a different history). The Wednesday before Thanksgiving is the busiest travel day in the USA with long, winding lines at airport security and roads banked up with traffic - when I lived in the USA, a regular 20 minute journey took more than two hours! Thursday and Friday are public holidays and many non-retail workplaces grind to a halt as people take extra leave.

Black Friday starts after Thanksgiving, the most celebrated american holiday.

But what is the significance of the day? Thanksgiving is the holiday that represents the story of the early English pilgrims. The Peanuts version of the pilgrim story starring Charlie Brown and his friends, while simplified, is an approachable summary for newcomers (Peanuts is a surprisingly good source for learning about American culture).

Fleeing from religious persecution in the late 1600s the pilgrims head for America, settling in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Folklore tells the tale of the Native Americans who helped the struggling pilgrims. With their help, the pilgrims successfully establish the colony, producing a bountiful harvest and the two groups come together to give thanks and eat together.

The arrival of Europeans in Australia had a devastating impact on the indigenous people there are many parallels with the experience of Native Americans during colonisation. It’s useful to understand the story which represents the holiday but also worth reading further to get a fuller understanding of the complex history and ongoing challenges that the traditional owners face.

Australians, religious or secular, traditionally join friends and family on or around Christmas Day and an abundance of of food often plays a major role. For many Americans Thanksgiving is just as significant, if not more so. Living in the USA I quickly learnt that they don’t hesitate to extend their hospitality around Thanksgiving; each year multiple people checked we had been invited to share a meal. It is not unusual to invite extended family and friends, work colleagues or acquaintances to celebrate and share Thanksgiving to make sure nobody is left alone. Turkey (roast or deep fried!), mashed sweet potato covered with marshmallows and grilled, jello “salad”, biscuits (savoury scones), pumpkin pie and other traditional dishes grace tables across the country.

Charity drives are held in the lead up to the day, collecting food to help support those who cannot afford to indulge. Thanksgiving is the most significant holiday that does not have a gift giving element - the focus of the day is on reflection and being thankful.

Jello salad

ABOVE: Jello salad, a traditional Thanksgiving dish.


RIGHT: MASHED SWEET POTATO TOPPED WITH MARSHMALLOWS - ONE OF THE TRADITIONAL DISHES ON THANKSGIVING MENUS.

Where does Black Friday fit in?

Black Friday is a retail event held the Friday after Thanksgiving, although increasingly sales are starting earlier and earlier, creeping into the Thursday evening in an effort to be the most competitive. In America Black Friday is the busiest shopping day of the year. Just as many Australians lament the release of hot cross buns arriving in the days after Christmas, the holiday season (Christmas/Hanukkah) starts before Americans have finished digesting their Thanksgiving feast. Black Friday lures shoppers with deep discounts and bargains aplenty to tempt savvy shoppers and providing inspiration to start crossing off Christmas/Hanukkah lists.

What about the other retail events around Thanksgiving?

America could never be accused of missing an opportunity to hold a retail event.

Small Business Saturday is another more recent retail event created to balance out some of the demand at the bigger stores. Instead of exclusively shopping at the bigger department and electronic stores, an annual Small Business Saturday campaign encourages consumers to include smaller, often independent businesses in their shopping mix.

Unsurprisingly, Cyber Monday, is what it says on the tin. Online shopping discounts and promotions are launched on the Monday following Thanksgiving. Many of these discounts are only available online, even for stores with a bricks and mortar presence.

Giving back where we can is important, especially around times of indulgence. As such Giving Tuesday, another relatively recent event, encourages people from all backgrounds to donate to a worthy charity. It’s not just about money though, the complete spectrum of “giving” which can be simple acts of kindness or appreciation are encouraged as well as donating financially.

How does Black Friday relate to Adelaide?

Black Friday is historically associated with Thanksgiving in the USA, but other countries around the world have been embracing this retail event in the lead up to Christmas. There is no doubt Adelaidians well and truly know Christmas is fast approaching. After the National Pharmacies Christmas Pageant and the lighting of the tree in Victoria Square / Tarntanyangga, it’s hard to miss the message that Christmas is quickly approaching. The Black Friday sales in Adelaide give shoppers the chance to pick up a bargain. Find out more about what’s happening in Rundle Mall, Adelaide’s biggest Black Friday destination.

Make a list (check it twice), get a head start on your Christmas shopping and don’t forget to include something to donate (food or a gift, for a child, teen or adult) to help bring some Christmas cheer to people who are doing it tough.

Article by

Rebecca Moyle-Croft

Rebecca Moyle-Croft

Bec has always been a passionate Adelaidean. Living abroad for six years she took every opportunity to explore, from big cities to national parks. She is chuffed to be living in Adelaide again, enjoying being a tourist in her home town with a long, ever-growing “must see and do” list.