EP 33: Thanksgiving Special. Travel, History, and Turkey Pardons

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Thanksgiving Dinner

Thanksgiving is the busiest travel week of the year. Over 42 million Americans travel over 50 miles or more for this holiday.

But did you know it’s also the busiest week for plumbers? Thousands of emergency calls are made to get sinks and toilets unclogged this time of year. So don’t put your potato peels down the garbage disposal like I did.

A depiction of the first officially recognized Thanksgiving

A depiction of the first officially recognized Thanksgiving

The first officially recognized Thanksgiving took place almost 400 years ago in 1621 at Plymouth, Massachusetts. But it wasn’t until 200 years later, in 1863, that Abraham Lincoln signed it into law as a national holiday.

For that, you can thank Sarah Josepha Hale, who for over the course of 17 years, wrote letters to five different presidents urging them to make it a national holiday.

But even before 1621, Europeans and settlers in America celebrated the years harvest with an autumn feast. This particular one in Massachusetts stands out because it included 50 settlers and 90 Wampanoag Indians. They also celebrated it a little different than we did.

For one, it lasted three days long. There also wasn’t any turkey. Instead, they probably had a lot of vegetables with venison, duck, oysters, lobster, or fish.

Today the town of Plymouth is home to the Plimoth Plantation. A living history museum that attempts to replicate what life was like in 17th century America. Every year they host a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, but tickets sell out fast.

This holiday has its traditional dishes like cranberry sauce, stuffing and of course turkey.

We probably wouldn't each so much turkey if Benjamin Franklin had his way. He wanted this bird to be the National Bird of the United States, instead, that went to the Bald Eagle.

Americans now we eat over 46 million turkeys each year, but one of these lucky birds gets a second lease on life.

President Barack Obama pardoning a Turkey

President Barack Obama pardoning a Turkey

Presidential pardons are a tradition that’s been going on since 1989.

A lot of people think it started in 1947 under Harry Truman, when the first official presentation of a turkey, to the president, began. But the Truman Library says the president never pardoned them, instead, he ate them.

Some try to credit John F. Kennedy with the first pardoning when he spared the life a huge 55-pound turkey. He wanted to let the bird live and said it’s his thanksgiving present to the bird. Newspapers reported that Kennedy ‘pardoned’ the turkey, but the first President to actually use that phrase for a turkey was Ronald Reagan in 1987.

Reporters asked him if he would consider pardoning people accused of wrongdoing in the Iran Contra scandal. They then joked wondering about the fate of the turkey, to which Reagan said that the turkey would get a pardon.

President George HW Bush pardoning a turkey

President George HW Bush pardoning a turkey

Two years later, George HW Bush made it an official White House tradition. And in 1999, Bill Clinton pardoned Harry the Turkey, starting a new tradition of giving them names.

Two birds are actually pardoned by the President every year. A backup is kept on hand incase the official one gets sick or, I don’t know, runs away or something.

President Trump has kept the tradition alive by pardoning two turkeys this year.

Another tradition this week is the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade (photo by martha_chapa95 from Flickr)

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade (photo by martha_chapa95 from Flickr)

It began in 1924 with 400 Macy’s employees marching down the streets of New York City. They didn’t have any large balloon or live performances like they do today. Instead, they featured animals from the Central Park Zoo.

Today, it’s one of largest parades in the world. It starts at 9 am Eastern time on Thanksgiving Day.

Now, if you’re watching the parade and you have some questions about cooking your turkey this year, you can always call the experts at Butterball. Their Turkey Talk-Line (1-800-butterball) answers almost 100,000 calls every Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving Travel

Thanksgiving Travel

If you’re not cooking this year and plan to travel this holiday, remember, it’s the busiest travel week of the year.

If you’re flying, try to take a direct flight. All planes are going to be full so if you miss a connecting flight it won’t be easy to just hop on the next one.

Also, try to pack light enough so you don’t have to check in luggage. Most airlines let you bring a free carry on and one personal bag like purse or backpack.

If you can, sign up for TSA Pre-check. It could save you a lot of time and hassle when going through crowded security lines.

And remember the flight attendants.

They’re probably going to be more stressed than you are. A lot of them won’t be seeing their family this week. If you can, bring some chocolate bars to give them as a holiday gift. They might keep you in mind for a free upgrade if one opens up.

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