Is Black Friday the biggest shopping day of the year?

Shoppers line up outside of Toys "R" Us in Times Square on Black Friday morning. See pictures of popular toys.
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For scores of Americans, as soon as they digest their Thanksgiving turkey, it's time to think about holiday shopping. They snatch up newspapers bursting at the seams with circulars and advertisements heralding Black Friday sales. Coined in the 1960s, "Black Friday" refers to the day after Thanksgiving that marks the traditional kickoff to the holiday shopping season [source: Tanenbaum and Tate]. The "black" in Black Friday symbolizes stores turning a profit.

These days, some stores don't even wait for Friday morning. They open their doors Thanksgiving evening or at midnight to give deal-hungry shoppers an early start for the shelves. But not everyone is eager to whip out their wallets while the scent of pumpkin pie still lingers in the air.

You can divide holiday shoppers into two distinct camps: the Black Friday go-getters and the procrastinators. Braving a retail mall the day after Thanksgiving usually involves driving in circles around a parking lot to find a space, elbowing your way down aisles and enduring endless checkout lines. All the while, the nonstop tune of "Jingle Bells" -- the most frequently played holiday song in shopping malls -- goes jingling all the way into every crevice of your brain. Black Friday enthusiasts say it's worth the hassle, though, since many stores will strip down prices to move merchandise. For that reason, you often hear Black Friday proclaimed as the busiest shopping day of the year.

­But what about the shoppers who oversleep Black Friday door busters due to too much nap-inducing tryptophan in Thanksgiving turkey? Do they hit the stores in a panicky pre-Christmas mob that's large enough to contend with Black Friday for business? After all, even the most ardent holiday customers who finish a bulk of their buying before Halloween forget a name on their lengthy lists and have to make last-minute purchases.