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November 22, 2013

Historical Echoes: What Color Is My Day of the Week?

Amy Farber

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
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
. 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 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

A humorous but telling December
2012 blog
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.

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