What Started Black Friday?

Sumerian Akitu celebration is what started the Black Friday. However, many historians would have a whole list of arguments and events to dispute this claim:

  • The first usage of the term Black Friday occurred due to a Crash of the U.S. gold market on September 24, 1869, that ensued from conspiracy implemented by two notorious businessmen – Jay Gold and Jim Fisk.
  • Army vs Navy college football game that was annually held in the city of Philadelphia during the 1950s giving a hard time to law officers.
  • Contrary to the rest of the year retailers were making profits on the day after Thanksgiving and used red color to record it.
  • Discounted slave selling during the times before the Civil War – historians claim it’s just myth.

All these explanations elaborate on the nature of the famous shopping day but still omit to provide the answer to what really started Black Friday? Since it is based on human beings, the exploration should start with who rather than what.

Who Invented Black Friday?

Old Sumerians were the one’s who both invented and started Black Friday. However, back then, it had a different form. To recognize it, it is important to understand that Black Friday is the commercial extension of Thanksgiving. Without the national holiday, there wouldn’t be the greatest shopping day either. It is exactly the atmosphere of love and plenty that is used to trigger the consumption on a mass level. Therefore, the answer to what really started Black Friday is in the origins of Thanksgiving – the harvest festival.

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What is the Harvest Festival?

The harvest festival is an ancient annual celebration of harvest featured by private and public feasts and glorification of being freed from the obligation to work. As harvests were taking place at different times in different regions, so did the time of the year for expressing gratitude to the old deities.

Who First Started Harvest Festival?

Old Sumerian relief representing the celebration of Akitu festival
Relief representing the celebration of Akitu festival

Sumerians were the first in organized and religious expressing gratitude connected to harvest. This harvest festival was called Akitu. Akitu is a Sumerian word connected to barley which was the most popular grain on the territories of Mesopotamia due to its ability to endure and sprout in hard conditions such as high salinity of the soil. It was celebrated in the time of reaping around the end of March and the beginning of April. Akitu celebrations were dedicated to an ancient deity called Nanna. This child of primal parent Enlil and Ninlil was the goddess of fertility and moon. Actually, having a domain over the moon is what made her the goddess of fertility. The 28-day moon-cycle roughly corresponds to a woman’s menstrual cycle. Since people made no distinguishment between human, animal, agricultural or wild fertility, Nanna became the deity for every kind of fecundation.

The Akitu Festival

How Did Ancient Thanksgiving Look Like?

The Sumerian Thanksgiving celebration lasted multiple days. The duration increased with centuries until it reached its final length – 12 days. Deities also changed. In the end, it was all about paying respects to Marduk. The ceremonies were featured by motives of penitence and mercy. The main event of the celebration was the abasement of the mere ruler. In front of the altar of Marduk, the king would be stripped of his crown, jewels, and robes. This was to show that the life of every single human being, including the king himself, was dictated by the will of gods. At the end of the abasement ritual, as the final act of Marduk’s great mercy, the king would receive his possessions back. The harvest festival rites would finish in the Hall of Destinies where Marduk would marry goddess Ishtar and promise to protect his worshipers. This was the first of the festivals from which a Thanksgiving day emerged.

 Sumerian king of Ur with his attendants
Sumerian King

Ancient Black Friday – How Did Old Sumerians Shop?

As it was said earlier, Black Friday had a different form in ancient times. While the day was not called black or Friday, it still existed as commercialism integrated into the Akitu festival. It is no secret that trading is, after hunting, possibly the oldest profession of humankind. Therefore, marketing tricks motivated by the wish to make mass sales through inducing people on mass shopping is a phenomenon of old history. It was present in the ancient states including the ones belonging to the cradle of civilization – Sumer. In Sumer, barley was the base unit for trading. Bushel was the measure which today equals around 35 liters or eight gallons. Good harvests meant a lot of barley surpluses. This gave people the freedom to purchase a thing or two for their personal pleasure. And was there a better time to purchase than a festival?

Harvest Festival Consumption – Akitu Festivals Sales

Festivals are featured by the crowd which was always a great opportunity for all salesmen. In the old Sumer food, mules, jewels, slaves, animal skins, pottery and other similarities were all the objects with highly developed markets. As for the slaves, throughout most of human history in almost every culture, they have been observed and treated as chattel. It is indisputable that ancient retailers were the ones to invent sales and lover the prices in order to attract crowds. For example, in the time of the festival, a three-year-old donkey could be bought for 31 bushels of barley which was around five bushels lower than the regular price.

Brief Travel To Modern Black Friday

Festivals like Akitu, with different names and rites, were present in ancient Greece, Rome, Egypt, etc… As Christianity emerged and became the most prominent religion in Europe pagan rituals were adjusted to the image of the church. In the 16th century, when the colonialization of the New World started, harvest festivals implied giving thanks to one and only Lord and his son Jesus Christ. In such a manner, the first Thanksgiving was observed in Plymouth in 1621. After the battle for Saratoga that took place in the revolutionary war, December 18, 1777, became a national day for solemn Thanksgiving and praise. Then came the crash of the U.S gold market that brought up the first usage of the term Black Friday which eventually became the day after Thanksgiving.

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