The tradition of 'pardoning' a turkey dates back to Abraham Lincoln. Here, pics of presidents with their grateful birds
Turkey pardoning is a tradition that is as American as apple pie. While families across the nation prepare for hearty Thanksgiving feasts, U.S. Presidents — dating back to Abraham Lincoln — have made an event of granting clemency to a selection of lucky birds.
From Purdue Pete to Flyer to Chocolate and Chip, see U.S. Presidents with the turkeys they've pardoned throughout the years.
Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1960
According to the White House, the tradition of granting clemency to a turkey dates back to 1863, when Abraham Lincoln apparently pardoned one. Poultry dealers had been sending birds to the White House for years before that, however, no one had ever formerly excused one from their Thanksgiving table. Fast-forward several decades, when people claimed Harry S. Truman officially began the tradition — a fact his library and museum staff disputes.
Though he was pictured with one at his time — and mentioned it'd come in handy at Christmas time — it was Eisenhower who posed for this photo op of himself feeding a turkey a cranberry during his term.
John F. Kennedy, 1963
The Washington Post first used both "pardon" and "reprieve" in a 1963 article in which President Kennedy said of his turkey, "Let's keep him going," the White House shared.
Lyndon B. Johnson, 1967
After Kennedy's assassination, Johnson took over the tradition. Here, Sen. Everett Dirksen of Illinois and representatives of the poultry industry and farm organizations presented the president with the year's turkey.
Richard Nixon, 1970
A possibly apocryphal tale about Nixon's photo op with his turkey claims the bird was so rattled, its feet had to be nailed to the table. (Apparently turkeys don't have nerve endings in their feet.)
Gerald Ford, 1975
Unclear if the bird directly in front of the president was for eating or decoration. The live one traveled to D.C. with the National Turkey Federation.
Jimmy Carter, 1978
The president's wife, Rosalynn, and daughter, Amy, took over the honors in this year, meeting with "Purdue Pete" on the North Portico of the White House.
Ronald Reagan, 1985
Reagan's expression of glee was no doubt due to the fact that this encounter went markedly better than his first with a turkey, when the bird went wild on him, fluttering around madly until handlers could placate it. Reagan is credited with making the turkey pardoning an official act, formalizing the annual process.
George H.W. Bush, 1989
Bush reportedly quipped "reprieve," within earshot of animal rights activists picketing the ceremony.
Bill Clinton, 2000
Clinton's turkey's name was "Jerry," which we have to assume was a Seinfeld reference, given the show's dominance throughout the '90s.
George W. Bush, 2006
Bush II's bird's name was "Flyer," though he looks like more of a "Grumpy," right?
Barack Obama, 2012
For his official duties in 2012, Obama brought along daughters Sasha and Malia, a job they helped with pretty much every year their dad was in office.
Barack Obama, 2015
President Obama is seen here with Abe, the 42-lb. turkey he pardoned on Nov. 25, 2015. Careful readers will note that some believe the practice of pardoning a turkey started with Abraham Lincoln, which brings this whole event full circle.
Donald Trump, 2020
Despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, President Trump was able to keep up with the tradition in 2020, granting a pardon to Corn, who lost a Twitter poll for the privilege to his pal, Cob.
Joe Biden, 2021
Though traditionally two turkeys come to Washington, D.C., and just one is pardoned while the other serves as 'alternate,' in 2021, President Joe Biden granted clemency to both.
Indiana natives Peanut Butter and Jelly were selected because of their "temperament, appearance and I suspect their vaccination status," the president joked. "Instead of getting basted, they're getting boosted."
Joe Biden, 2022
Biden repeated his two-turkey tradition in 2022, handing the mic to either Chocolate or Chip — birds named for the president's favorite ice cream flavor.
This marked the 75th anniversary of the turkey pardoning tradition, and Biden leaned into the puns in celebration.
"Before I gobble up too much time, the votes are in," Biden said, making a nod to the recent midterm elections. "They've been counted, verified. There's no ballot stuffing. There's no 'fowl' play. The only red wave this season is gonna be German shepherd Commander knocks over the cranberry sauce on the table."
Joe Biden, 2023
For 2023, it was turkeys Liberty and Bell who got their moment in the spotlight as they were chosen to be pardoned by President Joe Biden.
In a ceremony held on the South Lawn on Nov. 20, Biden celebrated the occasion, saying, "this is their day" of the two birds, who were raised in Willmar, Minnesota.
Just like in years past, the two turkeys spent the previous night at the Willard Hotel in Washington, D.C., arriving on a red carpet before being escorted to their rooms.
"This is the 76th anniversary of this event," the President said. "I want you to know I wasn't there at the first one. I was too young to make it up," he joked, taking a jab at the fact that he turned 81 on the same day.
For more People news, make sure to sign up for our newsletter!
Read the original article on People.