President Barack Obama got the holiday mood started at the White House with the traditional pardoning of the national Thanksgiving turkey.
The light-hearted ceremony in the Rose Garden on Wednesday afternoon featured Iowa-raised turkeys Tater and Tot, the latter of which became the final turkey to be pardoned in the Obama presidency.
Tot even gave a gobble as Obama congratulated him after the pardoning ceremony.
The White House asks people on Twitter to vote for which turkey will receive the pardon, though both typically get a reprieve, which Obama confirmed. he White House blog provides a biography for each bird to help in the decision. For example, Tater's favorite snack is worms. Tot prefers tomato slices.
Joining Obama this year were two of his nephews, instead of one or both of his daughters. The president joked that his nephews would be able to withstand his "cornucopia of dad jokes about turkeys" because they "haven't been turned cynical by Washington."
Presidents as far back as Abraham Lincoln have spared turkeys. President George H.W. Bush is credited with beginning the tradition of a pardon.
After the dad jokes wound down, for the most part, Obama had a chance to reflect on the spirit of Thanksgiving. Obama said it's a time to remember that "we have a lot more in common than divides us." He also challenged Americans to show the world that the United States is a generous and giving country, and to make sure everyone has something to eat on Thanksgiving.
"I want to express my sincere gratitude to the American people for the trust that you've placed in me over all these years and the incredible kindness you've shown my family," he said.
After the ceremony, the president and first family served Thanksgiving meals to residents of the Armed Forces Retirement Home in Washington. The campus is home to 405 previously enlisted service members, who represent every campaign since World War I. Obama served the turkey and gravy and briefly chatted with veterans and workers as they went through the line.
First lady Michelle Obama served beans and spinach, while Sasha provided the mashed potatoes, dressing and cranberry sauce.
The pardoning ceremony brings levity to the endless list of serious issues the president faces daily. It inevitably also leads to several bad jokes that will leave the audience responding with "oohs" instead of laughs. A baby began crying after one of the jokes, prompting the president to reply: "Oh, it's not that bad. Now, come on."
Obama was not deterred by the groans or the crying saying he hopes that when somebody at the Thanksgiving dinner table says you can't have any more food, you'll respond: "Yes, we cran."
As for the turkeys, their permanent home will be at Virginia Tech's "Gobblers Rest" exhibit, according to the White House. Tater and tot will be cared for by students and veterinarians in the university's Animal and Poultry Sciences Department.