Did you know that countries all over the world have Black Friday sales events in late November, despite not celebrating Thanksgiving?

It’s something I first discovered while I was in Mongolia on a brief business trip. During my tour around the city, I noticed that the driver had an advertisement for Black Friday sales. Unfortunately, I don’t remember what deals the people of Ulaanbaatar could expect that 2014 Christmas holiday season, but it stuck out to me.

Why would the people of Mongolia have Black Friday sales anyway? Especially since Christians make up only 2.2% of the population, meaning that Christmas isn’t an influential holiday. And why has this “holiday,” which is the epitome of American consumerism, spread to other countries?

It’s not just Mongolia either, though it’s perhaps one of the most remote countries to have this sales event—it also happens in the U.K., Canada, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, China, Japan, Russia, India, Pakistan and Brazil.

Some of these Black Friday events have popped up in order to keep commerce in the country. A woman from Denmark shared with The Atlantic how she travels to the U.S. every year in order to get the Black Friday deals in the U.S. due to the high taxes in her own country.

It’s understandable that people want a good deal, but it seems a little disappointing that this event has been adopted by so many countries internationally. Especially when they ignore an event that brings people together, like Thanksgiving.

As The Atlantic explains it, “From an anthropological point of view, one might say these new adopters of Black Friday are getting the profane without the balance of the sacred…This may be because those societies lack the cultural context that Thanksgiving provides in the U.S.: If Black Friday is an expression of the capitalist Id, Thanksgiving acts as the Ego, reminding Americans that there are better things to do than shop.”

The history of Black Friday goes all the way back to 1869 and was first used to describe a market crash in the price of gold. The day didn’t start to become synonymous with mass consumerism until the 1950s or 60s.

According to a column published in January 1966, “‘Black Friday’ is the name which the Philadelphia Police Department has given to the Friday following Thanksgiving Day. It is not a term of endearment to them. ‘Black Friday’ officially opens the Christmas shopping season in center city, and it usually brings massive traffic jams and over-crowded sidewalks as the downtown stores are mobbed from opening to closing.”

Retailers attempted to change the name to “Big Friday,” but it didn’t take. The name Black Friday stuck, and, to a certain extent, it does reveal the dark side of consumerism.

This year, like every year, there will be massive crowds that sometimes descend into violence as Americans push and shove in order to secure the best deal of the day.

Black Friday Death Count, which tracks Black Friday incidents around the world, reports roughly 11 deaths and 108 injuries over a 12 year period in the United States during the shopping craze the day after Thanksgiving. Most of these deaths and injuries, 70%, occur in Walmart.

And, since Black Friday’s worldwide adoption, there has been violence in other countries too. 

Getting a great deal on potential Christmas gifts is great, but the violence isn’t, nor is it a reflection of the actual reason for the holiday season.

With COVID causing the loss of income for many, it’s likely that the interest in Black Friday deals will increase, though the crowds will be limited. For those that are planning on getting out early to catch the best deals, for safety reasons, it’s probably best to avoid Walmart.

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