What is behind the turkey pardoning ritual?

 U.S. President Barack Obama pardons the National Thanksgiving Turkey during the 68th annual presentation of the turkey in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington

U.S. President Barack Obama pardons the National Thanksgiving Turkey during the 68th annual presentation of the turkey in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington November 25, 2015. Courtesy of REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Tobin Miller Shearer
 
Since 1989, when President George H. W. Bush first formally instituted the practice, U.S. presidents have pardoned a turkey shortly before Thanksgiving each year.  Although the turkeys offer no offense, their presidential pardoning invites the question: What is the significance of such a public rite of forgiveness?As a researcher of the history of race and religion, I have long been interested in the ideas and ceremonies that make forgiveness possible. The presidential turkey pardon draws on the long traditions of forgiveness in the world’s religions. A very public act of pardoning, as in this case, reminds us about the important role rituals themselves play in society.  Read more here.