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Obama Pardons Thanksgiving Turkey

Apple, the National Thanksgiving Turkey, is pictured before being pardoned by President Barack Obama during a ceremony at the White House, 24 Nov 2010

U.S. President Barack Obama has granted a pardon to a turkey and its alternate, saving the birds from becoming part of a traditional Thanksgiving Day feast.

At an annual White House ceremony on the eve of the holiday, Mr. Obama on Wednesday spared the 20 kilogram turkey - named "Apple" - from the Thanksgiving dinner table, where the bird is typically the staple food.

President Obama joked it feels pretty good to stop at least one "shellacking" this November. He had said after the mid-term elections earlier this month that his Democratic Party suffered a shellacking, or decisive defeat, in the polls.

"Apple" and the alternate named "Cider" will live near Washington at the estate of the first U.S. president, George Washington, where they will be part of a Christmas program until January.

Later Wednesday, Mr. Obama and his family will take two turkeys to Martha's Table, a local organization that helps feed and clothe those in need. The president said the gesture of giving is what is truly meant by the Thanksgiving holiday.

At the pardoning ceremony, Mr. Obama thanked members of the U.S. armed forces for their service, saying they make him proud to be commander-in-chief. The president's two daughters, Sasha and Malia, were with him at the event.

Thanksgiving turkeys have been presented intermittently to presidents since the Lincoln administration in the 1860s. It was President George H.W. Bush who issued the first turkey pardon 20 years ago.

In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation calling for the last Thursday of November to be observed as a day of thanksgiving. The modern Thanksgiving holiday traces its roots to 1621, when English settlers in the Massachusetts Colony held a feast with a Native American tribe who taught the colonists how to grow food and hunt for game in their new surroundings.