Thanksgiving traditions: Presidential Pardons, Turkey Trot and Pies.

“I’m Thankful for…”.this is the sentence that nearly 325 million Americans may pronounce for Thanksgiving Day to show their gratitude for their blessings. Thanksgiving is one of the most important and popular holidays in the United States. All over the country, people remember what they are thankful for. Among some Thanksgiving traditions, I would like to share with you the Presidential Pardons, the charity event “Turkey Trot” and the traditional cooking held in American households.


A Pinch of History

  • The 1st Thanksgiving was celebrated in 1621.
  • It was a feast celebrating Pilgrims and Natives Americans who helped the former to survive a rough winter.
  • It became National Thanksgiving Day in 1863.
  • Nowadays, Thanksgiving is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November.


Presidential Pardons

President Trump pardoned a turkey named “Drumstick” in the Rose Garden of the White House on Tuesday. Credit: Tom Brenner/The New York Times.

For many people, this modern-day tradition is ironic as the President is saving one turkey from a “terrible and delicious fate” (Obama‘s speech in 2014) and nearly 46 million others will be eaten for Thanksgiving. Even if Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy spared the birds, the official presidential clemency started under George H.W. Bush in 1989.

The origin of this history can be traced to the 1870s. At this time, Horace Vose, the “Poultry King”, a major supplier from Rhode Islands, started to supply the White House with turkeys in 1873 and continued until his death in 1913. Nowadays, turkeys are provided by the National Turkey Federation.

Horace Vose. credit: Theodore Roosevelt Collection, Harvard College Library


The process of the turkey’s selection includes a test of the turkey’s temperament as they need to “behave” while on the podium. The two finalist turkeys arrive a few days before the ceremony and stay in a hotel.  Therefore, just before Thanksgiving, they are presented to the President who will decide which one he will “pardon. “ The presidential bird will be safe and will finish its life at Virginia Tech for retirement. Unfortunately, these birds don’t live very long after pardoning due to their health conditions as they were raised to be eaten.


Nicknames are given to the turkeys. For 2017 it was “Wishbone” and “Drumstick,” the years before it was “Tater” and “Tot” (2016), “Honest” and “Abe” (2015), and “Mac” and “Cheese” (2014). The White House introduces them thanks to an identity card and promotes the hashtag team to boost their internet notoriety.


As well, the White House launches an annual Twitter survey on which bird should be pardoned by the President. Referring to the screenshot below, more than 40,900 people voted as of November 20th. This year, President Donald Trump pardoned “Drumstick. “ Apparently, some U.S. governors also perform this new clemency tradition.

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Turkey Trot in Downtown Los Angeles


Burn calories on Thanksgiving morning? Yes, you can! This year, my coworkers and I challenge ourselves thanks to the 10k Turkey Trot (6 miles). This race is now hosted in numerous cities across the country. In Los Angeles, this event benefits the “Midnight Mission,” an organization supporting the homeless. Actually, volunteering and giving to the less fortunate is common for Thanksgiving.

My running team after the finish line.


This fun and scenic race started in front of City Hall and continued around Grand Park. While running we get to see the Broad Museum, the Disney Hall, the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, Dorothy Chandler, Spring Street, and its historic buildings, etc.  As my gazelle’s legs are slower than Usain Bolt, I enjoyed the city and my surroundings. It’s great to appreciate it without traffic on this beautiful Thanksgiving Day!


It was not an easy race, a lot of hills and warm weather for the season. Nevertheless, the ambiance is really fun: some runners are dressed like a turkey, others have turkey hats, etc. It’s really festive for this thankful day.



Traditional Thanksgiving Meal


Thanksgiving is the center of gathering with your family and friends to share some traditional dishes. The masterpiece is the turkey and, according to the National Turkey Federation, 90% of Americans will eat it. The bird can be roasted, baked or deep-fried. Along with it stuffing, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, cornbread, cranberry sauce, brussels sprouts, and pumpkin pie will be served. A lot of food though but neither baguettes nor cheese 😉


Were all of these dishes eaten during the 1st Thanksgiving? We don’t know for sure as there is no record of the banquet which lasted 3 days. It seems that berries, seafood like clams, and goose or deer were present around the table but definitely neither corn (different season) nor pumpkin pie or potatoes.



The planning and preparation of dishes require a lot of time. It’s common that people take the day prior to Thanksgiving off to cook and to bake. The serving will be between 3pm-5pm. My eyes pop out (as well as my French stomach) when I was informed about this dinner time. Follow me: if you eat between breakfast and lunch it’s a brunch, if you eat during lunch and dinner? Well, it’s still called Thanksgiving dinner.

To understand it we need to go back in time up to the….Middle Ages! During this period working life and lifestyle followed daylights, from sun-up at 6am to sunset at 6pm. The dinner time, bigger meal of the day, was at “noon”. From Latin “none,” it means the ninth hour of daylight so 3pm.

For the anecdote, did you know that the etymology of the word “dinner” comes from old French “disner,” to break one’s fast (dîner in modern French)? When we speak about food, French are – de facto – always around the corner!


Happy Thanksgiving!!!!


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