Here’s How U.S. Presidents Celebrate Thanksgiving

A look back at presidents giving thanks.

Sarah Gibbens
Nov. 16, 2015, 11:58 a.m.

The idea of a na­tion­al hol­i­day de­voted to giv­ing thanks is as old as the United States it­self. George Wash­ing­ton was the first to de­clare that Novem­ber 26 would be a day of “pub­lic thanks­giv­ing,” but it was Ab­ra­ham Lin­coln who de­clared that the hol­i­day would be held on the last Thursday of Novem­ber.

Con­tem­por­ary White House Thanks­giv­ing tra­di­tions in­clude the pres­id­en­tial tur­key par­don­ing, ser­vice pro­jects, and a tra­di­tion­al Thanks­giv­ing din­ner. 

Cel­eb­rate Thanks­giv­ing Thursday with throw­backs from al­most 100 years ago. 

Franklin D. Roosevelt carves the Thanksgiving turkey on November 20, 1933.  White House Photo
President Harry Truman, gets a chip off of Plymouth Rock from the Bay State delegation of Massachusetts after he signed 1949 Thanksgiving Day proclamation, at White House, November 10, 1949. The Bay Staters also gave Truman a foil-wrapped turkey and a scroll with the story of the first Thanksgiving Day on it. AP Photo
Pat Nixon with the White House chefs in the kitchen, viewing the Thanksgiving turkey and vegetables, November 19, 1970. U.S. National Archives
George H.W. Bush celebrating Thanksgiving with the troops in Saudi Arabia during Desert Shield, November 22, 1990.  U.S. National Archives
Bill and Hillary Clinton help to prepare Thanksgiving dinner meals for the homeless at the Covenant Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., November 24, 1993. U.S. National Archives
Bill, Chelsea, and Hillary Clinton celebrate Thanksgiving in 1994. Bill Clinton Twitter
Bill and Chelsea Clinton join Camp Bondsteel's commanding officer, Task Force Falcon Commander Brig. Gen. Craig Peterson, for a pre-Thanksgiving dinner in Kosovo, Yugoslavia, November 23, 1999. AP Photo/Greg Gibson
President George W. Bush holds up a turkey platter for U.S. troops at the Baghdad International Airport in Baghdad, Iraq, November 27, 2003. Bush paid a surprise Thanksgiving Day visit to American troops in Baghdad.  AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais
George W. Bush helps to serve Thanksgiving dinner at the Bob Hope Dining Facility at Baghdad International Airport, Iraq, November 27, 2003. U.S. National Archives
President Barack Obama with daughter Sasha and First Lady Michelle Obama with daughter Malia distribute food for Thanksgiving at Martha's Table, a food pantry in Washington, D.C., November 25, 2009. White House Photo/Pete Souza
President Barack Obama fist bumps executive pastry Chef Susie Morrison after sampling pies with First Lady Michelle Obama, ABC News' Robin Roberts, and executive Chef Cris Comerford in the White House kitchen, November 19, 2014.  White House Photo/Pete Souza
Barack Michelle, Sasha, and Malia Obama, and Craig Robinson, participate in a service project at the Capital Area Food Bank in Washington, D.C., November 21, 2012.  Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

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