This afternoon, President Donald Trump will pardon two Thanksgiving turkeys, Drumstick and Wishbone. Watch it live from the Rose Garden with this live stream. According to the official White House schedule, the event will start at 1 p.m. ET.
The ceremony itself is officially called the "National Thanksgiving Turkey Presentation" and dates back to 1947 with President Harry S. Truman, reports the Washington Post. However, Truman did not pardon the turkeys he was presented with, but the pardon is sometimes incorrectly attributed to him because of his administration's request of the American people to ease up on eating poultry.
The Truman turkey presentation came about just after the end of World War II, and the consequences of it were still being felt. In an effort to conserve grain for foreign aid campaigns, the White House promoted "Meatless Tuesdays" and "Poultryless Thursdays" in the autumn of 1947. This did not go over well with the National Poultry and Egg Board. That year, not only Thanksgiving was on Thursday, but also Christmas and New Year's Day. As a compromise with the powerful poultry lobby, the Truman administration asked Americans to only give up eggs.
The modern turkey pardon didn't occur until 1989 when George H. W. Bush made it an annual tradition to "pardon" turkeys. Since then, every president has followed the tradition. Trump will be the fourth.
The first Thanksgiving between Wampanoag Native Americans and Puritan colonists occurred in 1621 and is sparsely recorded, but forms the basis for the modern celebration. The original 3-day celebration occurred in Plymouth, present-day Massachusetts, and was prompted by a good harvest. However, it is unknown if turkey was on the menu. History.com writes:
While no records exist of the exact bill of fare, the Pilgrim chronicler Edward Winslow noted in his journal that the colony’s governor, William Bradford, sent four men on a “fowling” mission in preparation for the three-day event. Wild—but not domestic—turkey was indeed plentiful in the region and a common food source for both English settlers and Native Americans. But it is just as likely that the fowling party returned with other birds we know the colonists regularly consumed, such as ducks, geese and swans.
Whatever the menu, the first Thanksgiving did not immediately catch on. It did not become an annual affair until the 1660s and it was not until the American Revolution that George Washington proclaimed the first nationwide thanksgiving celebration on November 26, 1789, "as a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favours of Almighty God."
It was during the Civil War that President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving date as a federal holiday to be celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November, according to Abraham Lincoln Online.