Black Friday, Singles Day and others: The true meaning behind these deal days

Let us talk about holidays. Real holidays, that is! Not some religious festivals like Easter or Christmas. Holidays are where we geeks are able to click through countless deals, as we experience sweaty palms and enjoy all the bargains that we are able to discover. 

Black Friday and Cyber Monday have been around for quite a long time now. On the international front, Singles Day has taken the lead ahead of the rest. It is not yet that well known in this country, but it is now the best-selling day in the world. Today we don’t want to talk about the numerous bargains that we hope to enjoy these days.

Instead, your favorite tech fairy tale uncle Casi is going to shed some light for you about what the origin is behind these slightly different holidays. So grab your favorite snack, a cozy blanket, and a beer a cup of hot chocolate. Drape yourself and be comfortable on your couch, and let’s get going!

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History of Black Friday

Black Friday has probably the longest history among the deal holidays, but at the same time, it is also pretty difficult to pinpoint the very beginning. There are many legends surrounding its origin. Traditionally, Americans in the US celebrate this unofficial holiday on the fourth Friday of November, which falls on the day after Thanksgiving. In fact, in some US states, it is now actually an official day off. This year, Black Friday falls on November 26.

Black Friday Brazil
All over the world, including Brazil as pictured above, people jump into the shopping fray on Black Friday / © Nelson Antoine / Shutterstock.com.

The day is traditionally used in the US to kick off Christmas shopping, so it unofficially heralds the holiday shopping season. When did it begin? This is a very good question as there are plenty of versions on the origin of Black Friday:

  • On September 24, 1869, two Wall Street brokers, Jim Fisk and Jay Gould, wanted to take over the entire gold market in favor of a politician and call it “Black Friday.” The market, that is, and not the politician.
  • Another even more zany theory on the beginning of Black Friday is how it dates back to the age of slavery. Slave traders wanted to cash in before the onset of winter and get rid of their black slaves at a discount.
  • Then in the 1950s, the term “Black Friday” was apparently first used. Back then, it was used for those who skipped the Friday after Thanksgiving in favor of a long weekend. Just as we use “blue” today, Americans utilized “black” back then.
  • Another theory is how the high sales volume on this day caused many traders in the USA to go into the black for the first time instead of being in the red (meaning, losses). There is also a saying that the traders literally got black hands from counting so much money.

It does seem most likely that Black Friday dates back to the late 1950s or early 1960s and the city of Philadelphia. There, the Army and Navy traditionally competed in a football game. Many people flocked to the city the day after Thanksgiving and stayed right through Saturday because they wanted to see that particular game.

Police threw up their hands in horror at the spectacle. There were far too many people on the streets that caused traffic jams, and thus resulting in overly long shifts for the police officers. The police therefore spoke unenthusiastically of a Black Friday or a Black Saturday. This refers to the fact that there were so many people on the streets that the masses looked like a black block. An article in the “Public Relations News” from 1961 mentioned and confirmed this approach, referring to Philadelphia.

However, it took a few more years for retailers to pick up on this term for this particular day that always saw strong sales figures. Initially, it was simply just a day where retailers experienced a surge in sales, but over the years, it developed into a veritable stampede of people to grab the best bargains possible. For decades, tumultuous scenes have played out on this day. The following video illustrates this rather accurately:

… And what about Black Week and Black Weekend?

Well, that’s how it is when a story is going well and you can’t get enough of it: You simply keep riding the wave! Specifically, “Black Week” means the entire Black Friday week, and Black Weekend is comprised of the Saturday and Sunday after Black Friday. So for this year, this would translate to:

  • Black Friday 2021: November 26th
  • Black Week 2021: November 22nd – 29th
  • Black Weekend 2021: 27th – 28th November

PS: You know what Black Friday has nothing to do with at all? It has absolutely zero connection with the great stock market crash on October 24, 1929, which led the US into depression which was later coined as the Great Depression. Those across the pond speak of Black Friday rather fondly, where in the USA this drama occurred on Thursday due to the time difference. Hence, the Great Depression began on Black Thursday!

History of Cyber Monday

As you have just read, Black Friday has been a regular event for brick-and-mortar retailers for decades. Cyber Monday immediately follows the “Black Friday” weekend in terms of calendar, so it’s the Monday after Thanksgiving and Black Friday. It is the declared attempt of online retailers to establish a sales-boosting day for the Internet as well.

The first Cyber Monday took place on 28 November 2005, so it has only been around for 16 years, making it relatively young. Nevertheless, this “holiday” has long since established itself and is an attraction in many countries (it has been in Germany since 2010) with decent discounts on offer. Amazon was significantly involved in making this event known outside of the US, that is for sure.

Not surprisingly, the fever for such sales has encompassed the world so much so that Cyber Monday is now accompanied by the so-called “Cyberweek”. This refers to exactly the same days as the above-mentioned “Black Week”. Basically, it is a rewording of the event, for the very simple fact that much of the sales and offers are now performed online The Covid-19 pandemic has also seen a surge in online sales worldwide which should cement Cyberweek’s hold on the masses in the years to come. 

  • Cyber Monday 2021: November 29tg

History of Singles Day

Still rather fresh in the deals day game is Singles Day – at least for those who live in the northern hemisphere. Unlike Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Singles Day did not originate in North America, but rather, in China, with the tradition originally beginning at Nanjing University in 1993.

Singles Day
The four ones of the date symbolize the individual singles / © forestgraphic / Shutterstock.com.

Is there an unverifiable legend about this, too? Of course! Legend has it that four single male students from one of Nanjing University’s dormitory thought that there should be a day to celebrate what should have been their dreary single existence.

They chose 11.11 as the right day, with each of the ones symbolizing one of the four singles. The custom spread through various universities and eventually throughout China. The former “bachelor’s day” has long since ceased to be a holiday exclusively for men; women celebrate it just as much.

So over here in Germany, carnival revellers put on their party hats on 11.11, in China singles celebrate their singledom. Sounds like the saddest holiday in the world, doesn’t it? But what is meant by this event is not how singles would sit at home crying into their pillows, numbed by alcohol and Netflix. Rather, there are many parties for singles, and along with those parties, a chance to meet someone and possibly get rid of the “single” status quickly.

All deal days at a glance: Date:
Singles Day November 11, 2021
Black Friday November 26, 2021
Black Week November 22 – 29, 2021
Black Weekend November 27 – 28, 2021
Cyber Monday November 29, 2021

Singles Day also involves gift-giving. So this is where the commercial component comes in. Over in China, the opportunity was swiftly taken to deliberately position Singles Day against Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Perhaps this is a not-so-covert attempt in beginning their own digital culture imperialism?

And, as is often the case these days, the Chinese have outpaced the US in this aspect as well: in 2018, the Alibaba Group alone made nearly $31 billion in sales on this one day, which is more than double the sales of Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday combined! This made Singles Day the highest-grossing day in online retail sales worldwide!

In China, the Deals holiday is also moving further away from tradition. Today, it is also celebrated by happy couples in China. The ones in the date then stand for the fact that the partner is the only one in the life of the other. So it’s no wonder that 11.11. is now the day on which most marriages are celebrated in China.

When it comes to the time frame for the deals, people are now also deviating from tradition, kicking off “Singles Day” celebrations as early as the beginning of November.

  • Singles Day 2021: Thursday, 11.11.

Other international shopping events

In addition to the shopping highlights of the year presented here, there are plenty of other shopping events. Some of them are only important in individual countries, while others have international relevance. We would like to briefly introduce some of them to you:

Boxing Day

Soccer fans would very well know of Boxing Day, which is usually celebrated in Great Britain on December 26, as a sports spectacle on which particularly intense derbies are played. However, it is actually a holiday that dates back hundreds of years. Back then, small “boxes” (many of which contain money) of gifts were distributed to servants on this day in medieval times.

Boxing Day today is more of a huge shopping spectacle, a shopping holiday that is not too far removed from Black Friday. It is celebrated not only on the island, but also in other countries that were once part of the British Empire, such as New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Hong Kong, and Canada.

In England, there are also fierce discount battles on these days and yes, there have been injuries and even deaths in the mad scramble to procure the best possible deals. As with Black Friday, the offers are sometimes extended to an entire “Boxing Week”. For some retailers in the UK, Boxing Day is the best-selling day of the year.

French Days

French Days in France (where else?) is a direct response to Black Friday by some French e-tailers and usually takes place once in the spring and then again in September. Originally, six companies wanted to counter Amazon’s market power. In recent years, over 200 online retailers have already gathered under the “French Days” umbrella.

French Week
These are the founding members of French Week / © NextPit

Last year, sales in France for these events picked up by as much as 12 percent and 6 percent respectively, so they certainly don’t have as much of an impact as Black Friday. Again, a lot of tech products are available at a discount, but also many other categories like fashion or home appliances.

Children’s Day (Dia das Crianças in Brazil)

Children’s Day, International Day of the Child, World Children’s Day – is celebrated in over 140 countries around the world, as this day exists under different names and on different dates, where everything revolves around children. Normally, the day is used to raise awareness of children’s problems. Among other things, it is about children’s rights, politics for children and the protection of children.

Depending on the nation, however, it is also a commercial holiday on which children are given presents. In Brazil, for example, it is known as Dia das Crianças and takes place on 12 October. On the same day, the apparition of the Virgin Mary is commemorated, but children look forward to “their” day well in advance. There they are given toys, sweets, and a whole lot more of other goodies, and the deals on merchandise that come with it are often extended to an entire children’s week.

Diwali

Diwali is the festival of lights, a very important Hindu festival that lasts several days. It is celebrated in India, but also in other Hindu-majority countries like Nepal or Sri Lanka. Actually, it is a very spiritual festival, and is perhaps best understood as a mixture of Christmas and New Year’s Eve (including fireworks). The festival of lights celebrates victory over darkness that signifies good triumphing over bad.

Here, too, commercialization has set in, so that gifts are also given for Diwali, often in the form of gold and jewelry. Children are given toys and sweets, good food is eaten, and the best clothes are worn – making  it all very similar to the Western version of Christmas.


We could name a lot more such events like the so-called “White Friday” in the Middle East, the Great Singapore Sale or even the rather young Amazon Prime Day. Maybe you could tell us about similar shopping events that exist in your country or that you could participate in. In any case, you are now up to date with the history of these most important shopping holidays.

Make no mistake about it, NextPit will also bring you through these upcoming deal days in yet another comprehensive article. We will tell you when and where you can find particular bargains and how you can recognize such offers. Buyer beware, as not everything is a top deal that as advertised!

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