President Biden is set to celebrate his 81st birthday at the White House on Monday by honoring a Thanksgiving tradition.
Biden, the oldest president in US history, will join First Lady Jill Biden on Monday afternoon at a presidential pardon for Liberty and Belle, two Thanksgiving turkeys who will be saved from becoming someone’s dinner. Later, Biden will continue his holiday celebrations by accepting delivery of the official White House Christmas tree — an 18-and-a-half-foot Fraser fir from Fleetwood, North Carolina.
The event marks the unofficial start of the holiday season in the nation’s capital and will be held on the South Lawn this year instead of the Rose Garden.
From there, Biden will eat a Thanksgiving turkey with his family on Nantucket, one of the Massachusetts islands, continuing a long family tradition.
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Liberty and Bell will be preserved in a tradition dating back to 1947, when the National Turkey Federation, which represents turkey farmers and producers, first presented a national letter of thanks to President Harry Truman.
At that time, the previous Thanksgiving, the first family was given a turkey for holiday consumption, but by the late 1980s, the tradition had evolved into an often humorous celebration in which the bird was pardoned.
“We think this is a great way to start the holiday season, and it’s a really fun honor,” Steve Leiken, president of the National Turkey Federation and president of Jennie-O Turkey Store, said in an interview with The Associated Press.
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Lykken performed Liberty and Bell on Sunday at the Willard Intercontinental, a luxury hotel close to the White House. They were checked into a suite there on Saturday after their days-long road trip from Minnesota.
The male turkeys, about 20 weeks old and about 42 pounds, hatched in July in Willmar, Minnesota. After Biden pardons his third pair of turkeys on Monday, Liberty and Belle will be returned to their home state to receive care from the University of Minnesota’s College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences.
“They have been raised like all our turkeys, protected of course from the vagaries of weather and predators, free to walk with constant access to water and feed,” Leiken said Sunday.
Markus Platzer, general manager of the Willard Hotel, called the turkeys “our very special guests” and said the hotel’s participation is “the highlight of the year.” Willard has housed turkeys for such events for more than 15 years, he said.
“There are a lot of bad things happening globally, which makes everyone, you know, smile [to] “Direct people, at least for a few minutes,” Platzer said Sunday.
On Sunday, he and the first lady served an early Thanksgiving meal to hundreds of service members from the aircraft carriers USS Dwight D. Eisenhower and USS Gerald R. Ford at Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia, the largest facility of its kind in the world.
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More than 200 million turkeys will be eaten on Thanksgiving, Leiken said.
Biden was born on November 20, 1942.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.