THE annual pardoning of the White House turkey marks for millions of Americans an important Thanksgiving ritual.

But the history of the ceremonial event is far from straight forward.

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Joe Biden pardons the turkey ‘Peanut Butter’ last year[/caption]

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Former first lady Melania Trump and former president Donald Trump gives the National Thanksgiving Turkey “Corn” a presidential pardon in 2020[/caption]

Even presidents Bill Clinton and Donald Trump have wrongly attributed the tradition to Harry Truman and Abraham Lincoln respectively, according to NPR.

In fact, three presidents can actually lay claim to having been part of creating the annual presidential turkey pardon.

The National Turkey Federation first began bringing live turkeys to the White House when President Harry S. Truman was in office.

Truman remarked they would “come in handy” for Christmas dinner, according to The White House Historical Association.

President John Kennedy then spared the turkey presented to him in 1963, saying “let’s keep him going.”

But it is President George H.W. Bush who is credited with beginning the formal pardon tradition in 1989.

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That came after he told onlookers that year’s bird was “granted a presidential pardon as of right now.”

Bush said: “But let me assure you, and this fine tom turkey, that he will not end up on anyone’s dinner table.

“Not this guy he’s granted a Presidential pardon as of right now and allow him to live out his days on a children’s farm not far from here.”

White House History also notes that Abraham Lincoln gave clemency to a Christmas turkey in 1863 but credits George H. W. Bush with making the ceremony an annual tradition.

The turkey pardon is traditionally an opportunity for presidents to crack jokes — often at their own expense — and usher in the holiday season.

Joe Biden last year pardoned two Thanksgiving turkeys, saying that the white male birds were selected based on their “temperament, appearance and, I suspect, vaccination status.”


In 2019, President Donald Trump joked about his impeachment inquiry.

He told attendees that the turkeys “have already received subpoenas to appear in Adam Schiff’s basement,” a reference to the congressman leading the investigation.

And President Barack Obama riffed in 2014 about taking action “fully within my legal authority” to pardon the turkeys, a knock at Republicans who had criticized him for signing a raft of executive orders.

This years turkeys, Chocolate and Chip, hail from North Carolina and will meet the president later Monday.

The National Turkey Federation tweeted last week: “Snacks packed, playlist queued up, feathers fluffed – they’re off!

“The National Thanksgiving Turkeys are on the road to our nation’s capital.

“Upon arriving in D.C., the National Thanksgiving Turkeys received the full red carpet treatment along with a photoshoot before tucking in for the night.

“A special thanks to the @WillardHotel for pulling out all the stops for these special birds.”

How did Thanksgiving come about?

The story goes back to 1620 when Pilgrims landed on American soil and settled in an area they named Plymouth just south of where Boston is today.

Unfortunately for those who’d emigrated, they settled in the beginning of what turned out to be a harsh winter, meaning rations were tight and times were hard.

When spring came the Pilgrims went out to plant and grow their own crops and were helped by a native American named Squanto.

Squanto taught them how to fish and hunt as well as showing them how to plant corn, pumpkins and squash.

With these new found skills they were able to store up enough food to be sure that they would be equipped to face the harsh winter months.

The grateful pilgrims invited the Native Americans to join them for a huge harvest feast which has since become known as Thanksgiving.

The tradition has continued for hundreds of years since.

What is traditional Thanksgiving food?

A typical Thanksgiving menu consists of roast turkey, stuffing, cornbread, green bean casserole, roasted sweet potato casserole and winter vegetables – a plate that resembles a British Christmas dinner.

This is then topped off with a pumpkin pie with a walnut crust, and even pecan pie.

Roasted turkey is probably the most common Thanksgiving meal to have.

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Mashed potatoes are also popular, and they’re paired with either gravy or cranberry sauce.

Stuffing is also a common food to have on Thanksgiving, as well as casseroles with cornbread.

Abbie Rowe. White House Photographs. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston

President John Kennedy spared the turkey presented to him in 1963[/caption]

Getty Images – Getty

Two turkeys named Chocolate and Chip are presented on in Washington, DC. They will be pardoned by the Biden for the 2022 Thanksgiving Day[/caption]

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