Biden opens holidays, pardons chocolate and chip turkeys

President Joe Biden continued a 75-year tradition on Monday, pardoning a pair of Thanksgiving turkeys named after his favorite flavor of ice cream while joking about his political party’s better-than-expected performance in this month’s midterm elections.

“The votes have been in, they’ve been counted and verified,” Biden said as he greeted chocolate and chip turkeys before hundreds of people gathered on the South Lawn in unseasonably cold weather. “There is no ballot filling. There is no poultry game. The only red wave this season will be when the German shepherd commander knocks over the lingonberry sauce on our table.” Commander is his dog.

Chocolate and chips, each weighing nearly 50 pounds (23 kilograms), were wheeled up from North Carolina on Saturday. They were placed in a room at the Willard Hotel near the White House to await their visit to the President and his release.

Chocolate chip is Biden’s favorite flavor of ice cream. The President joked at the event that “we could have called them chips and science,” after the $280 billion CHIPS and Science Act he lobbied for and signed into law earlier this year.

“My apologies to Chocolate and Chip,” Biden said. Before the ceremony, his son Hunter Biden took his baby son Beau, who is almost 3 years old, outside to see the turkeys.

Both eaters were hatched in Monroe, North Carolina, in July, according to the National Turkey Federation, sponsor of the turkey tradition that dates back to 1947, and President Harry Truman.

The burst of holiday activity at the White House followed a busy weekend for Biden and his family personally, along with midterm elections in which the president’s Democratic Party was able to do well enough to defy historical trends that had forecast huge losses. The Democrats retain control of the Senate. Though Republicans will control the House of Representatives when a new Congress meets in January, Democrats have kept GOP gains in that chamber to a minimum.

The official White House Christmas tree was delivered Monday, and the Bidens helped serve a Thanksgiving-style dinner at a North Carolina Marine Corps base later that evening.

Biden and his wife Jill were scheduled to leave Washington on Tuesday to continue their family tradition of spending the Thanksgiving holiday on the island of Nantucket in Massachusetts. They hosted their granddaughter Naomi Biden’s wedding at the White House on Saturday, followed by a family brunch on Sunday for the president’s 80th birthday.

Humor aside, the President ended Monday’s White House event on a serious note, encouraging people to get their COVID-19 vaccines to ensure a healthy holiday season. He also encouraged Americans to reflect and “be thankful for what we have”.

“This is a special time … in the greatest nation on earth so let’s be thankful,” he said.

Chocolate and Chip would spend the rest of their lives on the North Carolina State University campus.