Black Friday marks the holiday transition

Black Friday is the perfect opportunity for money strapped students to complete their holiday shopping (credit: Thomas Hofman/Assistant Photo Editor) Black Friday is the perfect opportunity for money strapped students to complete their holiday shopping (credit: Thomas Hofman/Assistant Photo Editor) Black Friday is the traditional beginning of the holiday shopping season. It occurs on the Friday following Thanksgiving Day and typically features large markdowns on products from many popular retailers. (credit: Thomas Hofman/Assistant Photo Editor) Black Friday is the traditional beginning of the holiday shopping season. It occurs on the Friday following Thanksgiving Day and typically features large markdowns on products from many popular retailers. (credit: Thomas Hofman/Assistant Photo Editor) Credit: Celia Ludwinski | Photo Editor Credit: Celia Ludwinski | Photo Editor

For most people, Thanksgiving is all about getting the family together and eating as much delicious food as possible. While there are so many aspects surrounding the foundations of this holiday that are worth celebrating, there is no denying that, along with tradition, Thanksgiving also marks the arrival of some more commercial perks. Just like the first of December marks the countdown to Christmas, as Thanksgiving approaches bargain hunters everywhere rejoice in anticipation of Black Friday.

Black Friday, a term given to the Friday following Thanksgiving Day, marks the beginning of the holiday shopping season. While it is unclear when this tradition was first established, the term became popularized at the beginning of the 21st century and is most commonly used on the East Coast. Though it is not nationally recognized as a holiday, it is a prevalently celebrated day in which milions of people participate.

For those who aren’t familiar with the perks of this day, Black Friday can be summarized in two words: huge sales. Stores decorate their fronts in typical holiday fashion and stock their shelves with discounted merchandise. Many of the larger retailers, like Walmart, Target, and Macy’s, advertise fantastic deals and, after opening their doors at 5 a.m., remain open for 24 hours.

Because of the incredible savings, the popularity of Black Friday has turned the day into a cultural event of sorts. While many choose to take advantage of the sales, there are varying levels at which this is done. For some, the chaos of Black Friday is a little too much to leave the house. Other more devoted bargain hunters see Black Friday as an indispensable opportunity, thus explaining the thousands of eager shoppers waiting outside of their favorite storefronts in the early hours of the morning.

Many have come up with various explanations for the term, and the exact origin of the label is still up in the air. The term “Black Friday” originated in Pennsylvania, and was commonly used by residents of Philadelphia to describe the mass amounts of traffic following the Thanksgiving holiday. Some media sources claim that the day is called Black Friday because it marks the beginning of the rising profit period for retailers, when stores go from being in the red (debt) to being in the black (profit).

While the details of the history of Black Friday are still unclear, there is no denying that this day has had a global effect. Regardless of one’s location this Thanksgiving, one should be able to follow the frenzy of Black Friday, by simply turning on the television and catching the news. Every year the media reports the record-breaking number of shoppers participating in Black Friday and there is always some newsworthy crisis, whether it be someone getting trampled to death or a fight breaking out in the middle of a Toys “R” Us.

Despite the popular conceptions of what Black Friday really is, there are plenty of ways in which one can take advantage of the sales in a relaxed and non-stressful way. In fact, there are many ways in which one can safely participate in the Black Friday spirit right here in Pittsburgh.

Black Friday in the ’Burgh

For thrifty college students looking to save a couple of bucks here and there, Black Friday is actually the perfect opportunity to save big on Christmas shopping or even just the monthly necessities. It’s important to remember that not everybody who participates in Black Friday is a coupon-clipping soccer mom, the kind who would punch a person in the face if he got in the way of purchasing that Gameboy game her son or daughter has been whining about for the past month and a half. There is no need to be ashamed of participating in Black Friday. In fact, there are plenty of ways in which one can transform the day into a memorable adventure.

If you’re in Pittsburgh for Thanksgiving and are looking to take Black Friday seriously, then there are plenty of shopping options for you. Aside from the expected department store knockdowns, plenty of local stores are cutting prices as well. While it is true that many of the smaller boutiques in Shadyside and Squirrel Hill may be closed for the holiday, several stores throughout Pittsburgh will be celebrating with big sales. Curious as to whether or not your favorite shopping spot will be open? Call ahead of time and find out. If you don’t mind crowds, Black Friday could be the perfect opportunity to get gift shopping out of the way.

Several stores are also throwing special events to attract the Black Friday crowds. The Macy’s department store downtown will have decorated its windows with various immaculate holiday scenes. The “Yes Virginia, There is a Santa Claus” window displays are inspired by the 2009 TV special retelling of a popular Christmas story from an 1897 editorial in The New York Sun newspaper that answered little Virginia O’Hanlon’s question about the existence of Santa Claus. The department store will also be hosting a Letters to Santa station and photo opportunity, as well as a special holiday store attraction stocked full of stocking stuffers.

Though the focus of Black Friday may be saving, don’t forget about the fashion. Fashion and music blogger Bella of www.bestofbella.com predicts that this year’s Black Friday must-have will be slim-fit, ankle-zipper skinny jeans. In an e-mail, Bella wrote, “I love Black Friday because it attracts such large amount of shoppers in such a short period of time — it allows fashion freaks like myself to see what specific items are the most popular.”

Not into the whole crowded chaos that has become a convention of Black Friday shopping? Relax, not all bargain hunting has to be stressful. With today’s technology it is only a matter of time until the Black Friday sales make their way to the World Wide Web. The term Cyber Black Friday is now being used to refer to the online promotional offers and sales that mimic those of the actual Black Friday. Because online shopping has become such a convenient and popularized way to shop, retailers have realized the amount of profit that can come from moving sales onto the Internet.

Looking to do something a little more unconventional on Black Friday? There are plenty of ways to celebrate this day without spending a single cent. Why not throw a Black Friday fiesta? When you do finally manage to wake yourself from your deep turkey coma, invite some friends over for a themed party. Require that all guests wear a black ensemble and bring a holiday gift to be traded with other guests. Maybe even serve up some Thanksgiving leftovers for dinner.

Holiday spirit

Aside from shopping opportunities, Black Friday also marks an important transition into the holiday season. Though most people never really examine a storefront, Black Friday is the day that most stores choose to unveil their holiday decorations. If you’re the type of person who is easily excited by the mere mention of Christmas or any other holiday, Black Friday may be the perfect time to stroll about the city and admire the lights and displays.

Whether you end up waking up at 5 a.m. to shop until you drop or choose merely to hang out with friends and family at home with a cup of eggnog, make sure you do something to celebrate the coming of the holiday season. As they say, “Christmas comes but once a year,” and if you’re not careful, the holiday season will be over before you know it.