It would have been easy to turn on their computers at home over plates of leftover turkey and take advantage of the Black Friday deals most retailers now offer online.
But across the country, thousands of shoppers flocked to stores on Thanksgiving or woke up before dawn the next day to take part in this most famous ritual of American consumerism.
Shoppers spent their holiday lined up outside the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota, by 4 p.m. Thursday, and the crowd had swelled to 3,000 people by the time doors opened at 5 a.m. Friday morning.
In Ohio, a group of women was so determined, they booked a hotel room Thursday night to be closer to the stores. In New York City, one woman went straight from a dance club to a department store in the middle of the night.
Many shoppers said Black Friday is as much about the spectacle as it is about doorbuster deals.