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By the numbers: Thanksgiving and the Presidents

With daughters Sasha and Malia looking on, President Barack Obama pardons Cobbler, the National Thanksgiving Turkey, at The White House Wednesday.

Story highlights

  • Presidents have played a role in the annual Thanksgiving celebration since 1789
  • President Obama continued the tradition by pardoning a turkey at The White House this week
  • One president opted for possum instead of turkey for his Thanksgiving meal

Throughout American history, the annual celebration of family and gratitude known as Thanksgiving has been a central part of The White House and the U.S. presidency.

This week, President Barack Obama kept the tradition alive by pardoning Cobbler, the National Thanksgiving Turkey, in a Rose Garden ceremony. His feathered understudy, Gobbler, was also allowed to live, and both birds will live out the rest of their days on display at George Washington's Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens in Virginia.

Here is a look, by the numbers, at Thanksgiving and the role American presidents have played in the holiday over the years:

1 - The first one was in 1789, when President George Washington issued a proclamation naming November 26 as a day of national thanksgiving.

1 - Number of weeks ahead the usual annual date of Thanksgiving was moved by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, in order to boost the Christmas shopping season.

4th - The Thursday in November set aside by Congress in 1941 to be observed as Thanksgiving Day and a federal legal holiday.

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65 - Years since the first turkey presentation at the White House.

2 - Turkeys pardoned by President Obama each year since he has been in office.

1 - Turkey pardoned by Obama in 2011 that, after a sudden and mysterious illness, was euthanized this week at the Mount Vernon Estate in Alexandria, Virginia, former home of George Washington and retirement resort for presidentially-pardoned avians.

26 lbs. - Weight of the Georgia possum served for Thanksgiving dinner in 1909 to President William Howard Taft and his family in the White House.

600 - Members of the 1st Armored Division and the 82nd Airborne Division serving in Iraq who were joined by President George W. Bush for their Thanksgiving dinner in 2003.

4 - Total number of visits Bush made to Iraq as president since the war began in 2003.

1 bite - Amount of turkey eaten by former President Bill Clinton on Thanksgiving Day in 2011, who told CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta he lives a [mostly] vegan lifestyle these days.