Turkey pardon: America's strangest tradition?

Posted at 3:13 PM, Nov 26, 2014

Even President Barack Obama observed that pardoning turkeys is an odd American tradition.

As he exercised his power to spare the lives to two turkeys, named Mac and Cheese, the president said, "It is a little puzzling that I do this every year."


He also said that two turkeys named after side dishes would normally have a "pretty low" chance of escaping the Thanksgiving table.

Although the tradition is for both turkeys to be spared, and both were spared, the White House ran an online contest to decide which would be named the "National Thanksgiving Turkey." Cheese won.

With the pardon now under their wings, the birds will be sent to a Northern Virginia turkey farm to live out the rest of their days.

According to the White House, the tradition dates back to 1948:

In December 1948, Truman accepted two turkeys and remarked that they would "come in handy" for Christmas dinner. There was clearly no plan for these birds to receive a presidential pardon. The Washington Post used both "pardon" and "reprieve" in a 1963 article in which President Kennedy said of the turkey, "Let's keep him going." The formalities of pardoning a turkey gelled by 1989, when George H. W. Bush, with animal rights activists picketing nearby, quipped,

"Reprieve," "keep him going," or "pardon": it's all the same for the turkey, as long as he doesn't end up on the president's holiday table.

So what do you think, is it the strangest American tradition? Fly over to our Faebook page to let us know what you think.