Historical Echoes: What Color Is My Day of the Week?
Black Monday, Black Friday, Green Monday, Black Thursday, Silver Thursday, Red Thursday, Black Tuesday—How to keep track? The more famous of these phrases refer to either political or economic/financial events. Black usually symbolizes something negative (and when finance-related, usually refers to a market crash), but it also suggests something positive (being “in the black,” or out of debt). All the days near Thanksgiving called “black” are “black” in this way. Red seems to refer to fire, communism, being “in the red” (in debt), or anger (Red Thursday is caused by retail workers being forced to work on Thanksgiving). “White” days are often religious. “Blue” and “purple” and sometimes “pink” tend to be for social causes. For some reason, British miners like these appellations—they have Red Friday and White Thursday. Silver does come up—Silver Thursday refers to a commodities market panic that began with a steep drop in the price of silver in 1980.
The first “black” day of the week referring to an economic or financial phenomenon was Black Friday, a nickname for the financial crisis of 1869. In a November 2012 entry from the Mental Floss blog, M Asher Cattrell does a nice job elucidating each of the “black” days of the week. He distinguishes Black Monday (the stock market crash of 1987) from Black Monday (an extension of the Thanksgiving Black Friday, also called “Green Monday” and “Cyber Monday”) from Black Tuesday (the market crash that precipitated the Great Depression) from Black Wednesday (the day before Thanksgiving, when college students newly on vacation drink to the point of blacking out) from Black Friday (the first important shopping day after Thanksgiving). By the way, the website todayIfoundout.com posted a very interesting video recently that debunks two myths about the Friday after Thanksgiving—that the origin of the name “Black Friday” has to do with companies going from “in the red” to “in the black” and that this day is the biggest shopping day of the year.
In an October 2012 NPR interview, Roben Farzad explains the significance of Black Monday—the 1987 market crash—and compares it with the crash of 2008, adding shades of gray having to do with the duration of the crash, the participation rate of investors, and the length of time needed for recovery.
A humorous but telling December 2012 blog post on the website of a mobile router manufacturer pokes fun at the phrases and reinterprets for the cyber age the importance of the days preceding the winter holidays for the retail economy:
The “green” in Green Monday does not mean environmental friendliness: it’s a reference to the quaint practice of purchasing goods or services with actual green paper. Paper money is particularly irrelevant on a day that exclusively targets online retail, and paper money is—and should be—fading anyway . . .
The very existence of Green Monday is evidence of the holiday hybridization of retail. We’re not content with just having Black Friday anymore—any day within about a month of Christmas is critical for retail businesses. Every day is “green” because the bottom line is the bottom line. Every day is “black” because this entire season is crucial for moving from “in the red” to “in the black.” And now every day is “cyber” because of the explosion of online sales, smartphones, digital signage, cloud-based applications, etc.
Some colors have hardly been used in this name game. So if you have a cause you need to promote, yellow (except Friday) and orange (except Friday) are still available.
The views expressed in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York or the Federal Reserve System. Any errors or omissions are the responsibility of the author.
Amy Farber is a research librarian in the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s Research and Statistics Group.