Being the leader of the free world might be the toughest job around, but President Obama has at least one easy and rather pleasant responsibility today: Officially “pardoning” a pair of turkeys.

The light-hearted (although not for the turkeys) tradition of sparing the birds from becoming a Thanksgiving meal might go all the way back to President Lincoln in 1865, according to the White House Historical Association. These days the ceremony has become quite the publicity stunt—for the last two years the White House has run a social media campaign for the public to vote on which of the two birds gets the title of National Thanksgiving Turkey (they both get pardoned, but only one gets the presidential photo op).

Photo: The White House blog

Photo: The White House blog

Promo material from the White House blog

The chair of the National Turkey Federation provides the poultry each year, according to a National Journal article. The 2014 contenders, Mac and Cheese, are part of a 15-bird flock that was hand-raised specifically for this purpose at Cooper Farms in Fort Recovery, Ohio. The primo birds go through special training; for instance, exposure to different noises to prepare them for the cameras and crowds. Here’s a ridiculous video of the 2014 presidential flock listening to Kenny Chesney’s “American Kids.”

In the last week the two biggest and best turkeys were selected and driven to D.C. where they’ve been receiving the full VIP treatment. The birds, nicknamed Mac and Cheese by the White House, have been staying in their own room at the Willard InterContinental Hotel this week, where they were visited by the press. National Journal described the luxe digs:

The luxurious third-floor room, which costs upwards of $350 a night, looked as it would to any other guest. There was a widescreen TV, a mini fridge, views of downtown Washington. And then there was the small entryway covered in a thick layer of wood shavings.

Photo: National Journal

Photo: National Journal

The birds reportedly gobbled at the television late into the night and spent a lot of time waddling around the fancy hotel room grunting, which is now my new goal in life. They’re right to live it up while they can, because their celebrity is fleeting. Mac and Cheese will be pardoned at 2:15pm today, and then they’ll retire from public life for good by kicking back on former Virginia Governor Westmorland Davis’s turkey farm.

The President pardoning the National Thanksgiving Turkey in 2011. (Photo: The White House blog)

The President pardoning the National Thanksgiving Turkey in 2011. (Photo: The White House blog)

[via National Journal]