Black Friday, which once heralded the beginning of the official Christmas shopping season, is losing that distinction as retailers push the start of shopping to Thanksgiving Day or even earlier.

For many retailers, Black Friday sales now begin on Thanksgiving Day itself, rather than the day after Thanksgiving. And for those trying to gain an even more competitive edge, Black Friday sales begin as early as Monday, Nov. 4, turning Black Friday into Black Friday Week.

According to a recent University of Connecticut poll, nearly half of American adults disapprove of the practice of shopping on the family holiday. Just seven percent said they plan to visit stores that day. The poll found that 46 percent of Americans think stores should wait until Friday morning to open, while 34 percent think stores should open whenever they want.

Another Black-Friday-creep issue is requiring employees to work on the holiday. Many news sources have reported on the policies of K-Mart which will open at 6 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day this year and remain open for 42 straight hours, causing some workers to report at dawn and others to miss family celebrations entirely. Wal-Mart will require nearly 1 million workers nationwide to come in on the holiday.

While consumers continue to be divided on the subject, some experts say they wouldn’t be surprised if there is an eventual backlash from the buying public. Some shoppers consider the “deals” available on Black Friday to be largely marketing hyperbole. The same deals, or even better ones, can be found prior to Black Friday or online on Cyber Monday, they say.

One generation – the Millennials, born between 1980 and 2000 – is more upbeat about Black Friday and more likely to shop in person that day. According to hhgregg, an Indianapolis-based multi-regional retailer, four in 10 Millennials say that Black Friday is fun and gives them a rush. In fact, as a whole, Millennials say they plan to finish 65 percent of their holiday shopping on Black Friday and Cyber Monday alone.

In contrast, current research shows that nearly 35 percent of Americans have a negative view of stores that open on Thanksgiving and deplore the crowds and long lines they encounter on Black Friday. Out of respect for their workers and to avoid negative perceptions, a number of national retailers have decided it’s good public relations to remain closed on that day.

Among the retailers remaining closed on Thanksgiving are Barnes and Noble, Bed Bath and Beyond, Cabelas, Costco, Dillards, Lowes, Marshalls, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, REI, Pier 1, TJ Maxx and Tractor Supply.

Among the stores staying open on Thanksgiving Day are Wal-Mart, Kohls, Sears, Target, K-Mart, JC Penney, Staples, Walgreens, CVS, Radio Shack and Old Navy.

Locally, Wal-Mart will be open all day on Thanksgiving, Staples will be open from 6 to 10 p.m., Radio Shack will be open from 8 a.m. to noon and 5 p.m. to midnight, Hastings will be open from 1 p.m. to midnight and HEB will be open from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The term Black Friday has had several meanings over the years, but retailers originally used it to signify the start of their most profitable season. Being "in the black" meant businesses that had been in the red most of the year were finally profitable for the time period.