They very first Thanksgiving was held in 1621 and was a 3 day event. However, Thanksgiving didn’t become a national holiday until 200 years after. In 1789, George Washington declared national Thanksgiving holiday, but it didn’t become an annual nationwide holiday until the 19th century.
We have Sara Josepha Hale to thank for that. Not sure who she is? Have you ever heard Mary had a Little Lamb? Well, she is the one who penned the beloved poem we all know today. In 1827 she began a 30 year long battle to make Thanksgiving a national holiday. She also published recipes for stuffing, pumpkin pie, and many other Thanksgiving staples we have on our tables.
So where did the pardoning of the turkey come from? Surprisingly, that little tradition didn’t come into play until 1989 when it was first introduced by President George H.W. Bush. Since then, on every November 6th, the current president in office pardons 1 or 2 turkeys where they get to live out the remainder of their lives on a farm.
Sara Josepha Hale wrote Mary Had a Little Lamb 1827 she fought to make Thanksgiving a national holiday and published recipes for stuffing, pumpkin pie, and other things
1989, G HW Bush, started the tradition of pardon the turkey. Every 11/6 the current president pardons one or two turkeys to live out the remainder of their days on a farm.
For more information about the history of Thanksgiving, check out the History channel.