Peanut Butter and Jelly won’t be at the Thanksgiving table this year.
That is: two national turkeys, named Peanut Butter and Jelly, have been given a presidential pardon.
“With the power vested in me, I pardon you,” President Biden said to Peanut Butter at a White House ceremony Friday.
After he spared Peanut Butter from becoming dinner, Biden encouraged the turkey to share his thoughts: “Go ahead, say something.”
“Gobble, gobble,” Peanut Butter replied.
He also pardoned Jelly. “I pardon you, kid,” the president said. More…
President George H.W. Bush began the tradition of pardoning turkey in 1989. “Not this guy,” Bush said when a holiday turkey was presented. “He’s been granted a presidential pardon as of right now, allowing him to live out his days on a farm not far from here.”
Bush pardoned a turkey in each remaining year of his presidency, as has every president since. However, the earliest known sparing of a holiday bird can be traced to 1863, when Abraham Lincoln was presented with a Christmas turkey destined for the dinner table and his young, precocious son Tad intervened.
Thanksgiving was first celebrated as a national holiday in 1863, after Abraham Lincoln’s presidential proclamation, which set the date as the last Thursday in November. Because of the Civil War, however, the Confederate States of America refused to recognize Lincoln’s authority, and Thanksgiving wouldn’t be celebrated nationally until years after the war.
In 1987, Ronald Reagan became the first president to use the word “pardon” in connection with a Thanksgiving turkey, in response to media queries about whether he might pardon Lt. Col. Oliver North or any of the other figures involved in the Iran-Contra scandal. Reagan joked that if that year’s turkey had not already been destined for a petting farm, “I would have pardoned him.”