Turkey Pardon: A White House Thanksgiving Tradition

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The presidential turkey pardon is an interesting White House tradition that has captured the attention of the public in recent years. Live Thanksgiving turkeys have been presented to presidents since the Lincoln administration. The turkey pardon ceremony has been said to date back to 1947, when President Harry Truman received a turkey as a gift from the National Turkey Federation. The Truman Library has been unable to find any evidence of this.

In 1987, President Ronald Reagan informally issued a “pardon” to a turkey and sent him to a petting zoo. It wasn’t until the first Thanksgiving of President George H.W. Bush, in 1989, that a turkey was officially pardoned. Each year since, the President has formally pardoned a turkey and spares it from ending up on the Thanksgiving table. A pardoning ceremony is held each year in the White House Rose Garden a day or two before the national holiday.

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