The Most Iconic Presidential Turkey Pardons To Date

While I may not be the biggest fan of Thanksgiving, I turn up for presidential history. The presidential turkey pardon is just one of the things that brighten the holiday for me —along with the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade of course. I mean, one of the most recognizable and dignified individuals in our country cracking scripted jokes to a huge bird? It’s so ridiculous that only Americans can get away with it. For those that don’t feel like watching football with their families this year or just need a laugh, here are some my favorite presidential turkey pardons.

The Best Dad Jokes You’ll Ever Hear: Barack Obama (2016)

For his last turkey pardon, Barack Obama showed off his sense of humor as he cracked a myriad of jokes right in front of his young nephews who adorably have no clue what’s going on. (My personal favorite? “Yes, we cran.”) Obama truly embraced the fun that comes along with the turkey pardon and historically embarrassed his daughters throughout his years in office. Presidents, they’re just like us!

The Adorable Request That Started It All: Abraham Lincoln (1863)

This was unofficially the very first turkey pardon, while the first recognized one was with Ulysses S. Grant a decade later. According to, Lincoln was gifted a large turkey for Christmas but his 10-year-old son Tad became very attached to it and begged to keep it so it would not be killed. His love for the bird, reportedly named Jack, made his father give in and allowed Jack to stay at the white house.

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The Political Joke That Made Everyone Uncomfortable: Donald Trump (2017)

The best part of the turkey pardon is how awkward it can be, so when Donald Trump had to make a joke about Barack Obama last year it only added to the uncomfortable air that is the strangest White House tradition. Before he could even pardon “Drumstick”, Trump joked about how he, unfortunately, could not remove the pardon placed on “Tater” and “Tot” from last year under Barack’s ruling. (Fun fact: a president cannot revoke a pardon made by his predecessor, including animals.)

The Happiest Turkeys On Earth: George W. Bush (2005)

Not only did the hilarious turkey duo Marshmallow and Yam get to be spared by the Bush family that year, but they also got to spend the rest of their days in America’s prime vacation spot. That’s right, the pair of pardoned turkeys were sent to Disney World—all expenses paid, of course. They even served as honorary grand marshals of the park's parade in lieu of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York.


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Whether or not you keep up with politics, the annual turkey pardon can be a great buffer from any heated debates at the table this year. Both TIME Magazine and NPR will live stream the presidential turkey pardon this year from their websites for those of you who are interested in partaking in the strangest festivities this year.