Mall of America is planting itself smack dab in the middle of the "open on Thanksgiving" debate.

The Bloomington mall opens officially at midnight on Black Friday, "but stores have the opportunity to open earlier if they choose," mall spokesman Dan Jasper said.

In addition to Macy's, which announced earlier this month that it would open stores at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving, Len, Athleta, Gap, Godiva, American Eagle, Aerie and Express all plan to open at 8 p.m. Last year Sears opened its stores at 8 p.m., including its Mall of America location, but the retailer has not yet announced hours for this year's holiday season yet.

Nordstrom, the only major department store to wait until the day after Thanksgiving to fully decorate its stores for the holidays, will open at 9 a.m. on Black Friday.

Carter's and Field of Dreams will open at 9 p.m. Thursday, and Aeropostale will open at 10 p.m. Old Navy is opening from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and reopening at 7 p.m. on Thanksgiving.

Even with a few retailers breaking the sacrosanct 8 p.m. start time, Britt Beemer of America's Research Group in South Carolina doesn't expect other major retailers such as Wal-Mart or Target to open earlier than 8 p.m.

"Most Thanksgiving dinners are between 2:30 and 4:30 p.m.," Beemer said. "It's difficult to get the kitchen back to normal much before 7 p.m."

Last year, Beemer found that parents generally sent their kids out in the cold to stand in line for early-bird deals on Thanksgiving but took the task on themselves for Black Friday deals.

Mall of America took the chill off by letting its patrons wait inside. Last year, 30,000 shoppers showed up before midnight, said Jasper. The mall will open its doors on Thanksgiving again this year.

Despite vocal opposition to opening on "turkey day," Beemer's research showed that only 4 percent of Americans said they would refuse to shop at a store open on Thanksgiving. Nearly one quarter of shoppers said that they got the majority of their Christmas shopping done during the period from Thanksgiving to Black Friday evening, according to America's Research Group.