Biden Pardons Turkeys, Celebrates ‘Friendsgiving’ With Military Families
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden had a busy schedule on his plate on Monday, in some ways almost literally.
The day began with the president pardoning the National Thanksgiving Turkey and his alternate in a ceremony on a chilly South Lawn of the White House.
This year was the 75th National Thanksgiving Turkey presentation, making it among the time-honored traditions of the start of the holiday season, alongside the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade and annual showing of “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving.”
This year’s pardoned turkeys, who spent the night at the upscale Willard Hotel just blocks from the White House, were raised by National Turkey Federation Chairman Ronnie Parker on a farm near Monroe, North Carolina.
Now that their big day on the South Lawn is done, the turkeys will retire to North Carolina State University in Raleigh.
A little later on Monday afternoon, First Lady Dr. Jill Biden will receive the official 2022 White House Christmas Tree at the White House.
The first lady will welcome the tree along with fellow National Guard and Army mom, Kelly Hokanson, the spouse of the Chief of the National Guard Bureau, General Daniel Hokanson.
The centerpiece of the holiday season at the executive mansion, an 18 1/2-foot concolor fir, will stand floor to ceiling in the Blue Room of the White House.
Each year, the room’s chandelier is removed to accommodate the Christmas tree’s full height.
This year’s tree will be presented by the Shealer Family of Evergreen Acres Christmas Tree Farm in Auburn, Pennsylvania, the 2022 Grand Champion Grower in the National Christmas Tree Association’s annual contest.
Once that ceremonial duty is completed, the president and first lady will travel to the Marine Corps Air Station in Cherry Point, North Carolina, to participate in a Friendsgiving dinner with service members and military families.
For those who like a little holiday trivia, it was President Harry Truman who welcomed the first National Thanksgiving Turkey to the White House.
As for the Christmas tree, the first known Christmas tree in the White House was placed upstairs in the second floor Oval Room — then used as a family parlor and library — in 1889 during the Benjamin Harrison administration. It was decorated with candles for the Harrison grandchildren.
The first electric lights to be placed on a first family’s Christmas tree were used in 1894 during the presidency of Grover Cleveland, three years after electricity was installed in the White House.
The Taft children — Robert, Helen and Charles — placed the first tree in the Blue Room on the State Floor in 1912.
President William Howard Taft and First Lady Helen Taft were away on a trip to Panama, so the tree was a surprise for the seven young Laughlin and Herron cousins, who with their parents, were guests at the White House.
Since the Taft family placed a Christmas tree in the Blue Room in 1912, this custom of placing a tree or multiple trees on the State Floor was sporadically performed by successive first families.
Some families placed a small tree in the Blue Room; many others preferred a large tree or trees in the East Room, as this was where most of the seasonal activities took place.
During the Dwight Eisenhower administration, First Lady Mamie Eisenhower featured a tree in the Blue Room consistently.
First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy continued this tradition and in 1961 selected a theme for the annual Blue Room Christmas tree.
That year, the tree was decorated with objects depicting characters and toys from the “Nutcracker Suite” ballet. This tradition of a themed Blue Room Christmas tree has continued ever since.
Since 1966, the National Christmas Tree Association has held a competition for the official White House Blue Room tree. To qualify for the national contest, growers must first win their state or regional competitions.