Black Friday kept popping up all over the place this past week causing me some confusion – it’s not too difficult at the best of times to confuse me, but I was trying to work out how Black Friday could be anticipated. That is until I finally gave up and ‘Googled’ it. As most of you probably know it’s a shopping day which happens in the USA after Thanksgiving (Happy Thanksgiving to those of you who celebrate it).
I purposefully don’t follow the news these days as I find it too depressing, but have proven time and time again that if something is that newsworthy I will hear about it soon enough. But I couldn’t place Black Friday at all – my frame of reference being Black Week, 10-17 December 1899, during the Anglo-Boer War when the British suffered three major defeats in six weeks. Although I did try Black History Month, but that is October and is quite different to the majority of my associations with Black days as Black History Month commemorates and celebrates diversity of culture.
Returning to my main frame of reference, there are the numerous letters one comes across in the archives with black borders signifying that someone near has died. This got me doing a bit of digging – the origin of black-border letters seem to be a Victorian phenomenon. During World War 1, letters regularly passed between friends and government officials edged in black. Most notable I’ve come across is the correspondence between Lord Buxton (Governor General and High Commissioner of South Africa) and his good friend Lord Grey (Foreign Secretary) to be found at the British Library.
During the inter-war years, Black Thursday and Black Tuesday became attached to 24 & 29 October 1929 respectively when the Wall Street Stock Exchange crashed. This was to impact on many economies around the world, not least South Africa which only started to recover once it left the Gold Standard in 1932. This event was also to lead to the National Party (JBM Hertzog) and South African Party (Jan Smuts) joining to become the United Party which led the Union until the outbreak of World War 2.
One of the earliest Black days was Black Monday – 8 February 1886 – when London unemployed took to the streets and rioted whilst one of the most recent was Black Saturday, 7 February 2009, when Australian bush fires claimed the lives of 173 people. Between these dates, there’s Black Wednesday, 16 September 1992, when Britain suspended its membership of the European Exchange Rate Mechanism.
All in all, a Black day generally refers to a tragedy or significant negative event which had a national or wider impact. To call a shopping day Black therefore just doesn’t fit – no matter how much “I hate shopping, I hate it, I hate it, I hate it” as South Africa’s foremost acapella group, Not the Midnight Mass parodied Marie Penz back in the 1990s.
And for those of you who were wondering about other Black days, Black Sunday refers to a film, whilst Black Days is a song and Black Day is a Korean day, 14 April, for singles – an event similar to Valentine’s Day.