Black Friday Sales Delayed By New England Blue Laws

Sean D. Elliot/AP Photo

The discount shopping madness of Black Friday may be inching earlier and earlier-in most parts of the country, it will begin on Thanksgiving this year-but not in New England, where centuries-old "blue laws" keep businesses closed on the holiday.

Walmart, Target and Toys "R" Us announced that they would begin their Black Friday sales on Thanksgiving night this year, inspiring shoppers to begin lining up outside of retailers nearly a week ahead of the traditional shopping day.

In Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Maine, however, laws created during the Colonial period that ban stores from being open holidays are still in existence. Retailers can apply for exemptions in Massachusetts, according to state law, though it is unclear if any national corporations have done so.

Small retailers that employ five or fewer employees are allowed to remain open on Thanksgiving in Maine, but all other retailers must stay closed until Friday morning, according to Maine law.

"It's been confusing this year, because a lot of retailers are advertising an early kick-off to the Black Friday," Jon Hurst, president of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts, told Rhode Island's Providence Journal newspaper, "but it won't be happening around here."

Most stores will open at midnight or 1 a.m. in those states, according to the newspaper.