Being the history geek that I am, I wanted to dig a little deeper to see how the whole tradition got started. And here’s what I found on whitehousehistory.org:
The tradition of “pardoning” White House turkeys has been traced to President Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 clemency to a turkey recorded in an 1865 dispatch by White House reporter Noah Brooks, who noted, “a live turkey had been brought home for the Christmas dinner, but [Lincoln’s son Tad] interceded in behalf of its life. . . . [Tad’s] plea was admitted and the turkey’s life spared.”
Don’t miss these details:
- It was Lincoln, who had already brought freedom to millions who had been in bondage.
- It was Christmas, not Thanksgiving.
- It was Lincoln’s son, Tad, who interceded to his father on behalf of the turkey.
It’s that last detail that stops me in my tracks. As I think about what I am grateful for this Thanksgiving season, I am most grateful for a Heavenly Father who proclaimed freedom for the captives (Isaiah 61:1). That at Christmas, His son came into the world in order to set us free (John 8:36). And that God’s son, Jesus, does not condemn us. Instead, He is at the right hand of God and is at this moment interceding for us (Romans 8:34).
Because here’s the deal. There are a lot of days where I’m pretty much a turkey. Maybe I’m impatient with my family. Maybe I’m selfish toward my wife. Maybe I’m insensitive to the needs of a church member. Maybe I give in again to a secret or shameful sin. On those days, I am reminded of a Son interceding to His Father to seal my pardon. And I am so grateful.