For some reason (I guess I never gave it any real thought) I always thought the annual pardoning of the National Thanksgiving Turkey to be an old American tradition. Instead I discovered that, in fact, it’s quite new. The National Turkey Federation and the Poultry and Egg National Board have been giving turkeys to US Presidents ever since 1947 at a White House ceremony. Instead of pardoning them, however, they usually ended up eating them. The first time it was pardoned was the first Thanksgiving of President George H.W. Bush in 1989.
Of course there are other stories. For instance, there is a tale which claims the tradition began much earlier, during the time of Abraham Lincoln when he pardoned his son Tad’s pet turkey. It seems as though that version – whether true or not – has more of the makings of a legend, a part of American mythology. But, oh well.