Turkey is the most common meal eaten at Thanksgiving in the United States. Sometimes, this is taken a step further by having turkeys represent or symbolize Thanksgiving as a whole. The turkey in question (which can be either domesticated or wild) is almost Always Male, most likely because real-life male turkeys are both larger and more colorful than the females. As such, Tom is a common name for said turkeys.
In the UK and Australia, Thanksgiving is not celebrated, and turkey is generally associated with Christmas. In Britain, there is an increasingly minor religious holiday called Harvest Sunday, which celebrates the bounty given by God for men to reap in Autumn, which has become less and less significant as Britain moved away from being an agricultural economy. Its significance here is that when emigrants took the Harvest Sunday celebration to the USA and Canada, it became Thanksgiving, albeit celebrated on different dates. The Pilgrims were actually celebrating Harvest Thanksgiving in 1621 as they would have done in England, for the same reasons. But they had access to turkeys.
- Santa Versus Dracula: A Thanksgiving turkey is one of the holiday embodiments (the others being Cupid and a leprechaun) the Easter Bunny teams up with to battle a vampirized Santa Claus.
- FoxTrot: In one strip, the ghost of Tom Turkey shows up to give Peter "a heaping helping of post-Thanksgiving justice." However, Tom can't even pick up the nearby carving knife because Peter ate all his muscles.
- Free Birds: The protagonist Reggie is a turkey raised on a farm who fears he'll be cooked for Thanksgiving. However, he instead becomes a pardoned turkey. He is then recruited by the rogue turkey Jake, and they steal a time machine to travel back to the first Thanksgiving in hopes of preventing eating turkey from becoming the holiday's tradition.
- The Nightmare Before Christmas: When Jack Skellington wanders into the forest, he comes across a series of doors decorated with symbols representing various holidays. One door has a picture of a turkey on it, suggesting that it leads to a Thanksgiving-themed realm.
- For Canadian Thanksgiving in 2022, Pixar tweeted out a Turning Red promotional image featuring turkey.
- Addams Family Values: Parodied in the Thanksgiving play at Camp Chippewa, where the children are stuffed into turkey costumes to sing a cheerfully insipid song about eating them. When Wednesday sends the play Off the Rails, one of the turkeys stuffs an apple into the mouth of a pilgrim on a pyre.
"Eat us! (Hey!) It's Thanksgiving day
Eat us! We make a nice buffet"
- Holiday Inn: A cartoon turkey runs around the calendar for November as Thanksgiving moves back and forth between two Thursdays. This is a topical joke. Before 1941 (the film was released in 1942), Thanksgiving was the last Thursday in November, but there were efforts by merchants to move it a week earlier to extend the Christmas shopping season. In that year, President Roosevelt signed a joint resolution of Congress declaring Thanksgiving to be the fourth Thursday, whether it's the last one or not.
- ThanksKilling: The film stars an evil turkey who killed the pilgrims on the first Thanksgiving before going into hibernation. He wakes up 505 years later to commit another Thanksgiving massacre.
- In The Berenstain Bears Give Thanks, Farmer Ben raises a tom turkey named Squanto and sells him to the Bear family for their Thanksgiving dinner. But Sister becomes attached to Squanto, so in the end, Mama and Papa let her keep him in a pen as a pet and have salmon as their Thanksgiving entree instead.
- Bone Chillers: During the Frankenturkey duology, two kids build a fake turkey so that one that they had grown attached to doesn't become Thanksgiving dinner. However, a bolt of lightning brings the fake turkey to life. The fake turkey turns evil and wreaks havoc on them.
- Our Miss Brooks: Our Miss Brooks had two Thanksgiving episodes; both times Miss Brooks finds it difficult to procure a turkey for Thanksgiving dinner.
- In the television episode "Thanksgiving Show" (a remake of the radio episode "Thanksgiving Weekend"), Mrs. Davis only buys a tiny squab for thanksgiving dinner. Miss Brooks attempts to get herself invited to a more substantial dinner results in Mr. Boynton, Walter Denton, Stretch Snodgrass, and the entire Conklin family invited over to dine on Thanksgiving squab at Mrs. Davis' house.
- In the radio episode "Thanksgiving Turkey", facing buying a turkey with only $5 to spend, Miss Brooks and Mr. Boynton, with the assistance of Walter Denton, buy a live turkey from a farmer. Only thing is the turkey was a pet, and answers to the name Bernice (and falls in love with Mr. Boynton's pet frog Mc Dougall to boot). Hilarity Ensues.
- Halloween Horror Nights: Universal Studios' 2019 version of the event featured a haunted maze called Holidayz in Hell that has a demonic turkey murdering a family celebrating Thanksgiving.
- The Thanksgiving Holiday Mode in Alice in the Mirrors of Albion features plenty of turkey-related objects. There's a special search location that is shaped like a turkey, a cartoon turkey you can trade with for bonuses, and a roast turkey Anthropomorphic Food which you can "arrest" for similar purposes.
- Animal Crossing: On the fourth Thursday of November, the town celebrates the Harvest Festival. During this event, the player can go around town looking for Franklin, a turkey who was invited to the festival to be the main meal. Naturally, he doesn't want that and spends the festival hiding behind random objects in the game. If you give him knives and forks from the festival table, he'll give you furniture from the Harvest Set in return. Fortunately for him, starting with New Leaf he's re-imagined as a celebrity chef who's invited to make dinner rather than be dinner.
- Sluggy Freelance: During the "Holiday Wars" arc, a turkey general is used to represent Thanksgiving and is one of the holiday personifications Bun-bun the Easter Bunny kills and absorbs powers from on his quest to kill his archenemy Santa Claus.
- El Goonish Shive: A filler strip references this with a sign prohibiting turkey forms until after Thanksgiving.
- Animaniacs: The episode "Turkey Jerky" takes place during the first Thanksgiving. Captain Miles Standish attempts to hunt down a turkey for the pilgrims. Unfortunately for him, the turkey he's hunting is pals with the Warner Siblings, and they don't take kindly to their friend being hunted for food.
Miles: Begone, pests, and give me the bird!
Yakko: We'd love to, really, but the FOX censors won't allow it.
- Amphibia: “The Big Bugball Game” takes place on the frog equivalent of Thanksgiving, and the centerpiece of the celebration is an enormous turkey/insect hybrid. Anne is at first repulsed but admits she’d probably eat it anyway.
- Bob's Burgers: In "I Bob Your Pardon", the city has a turkey-pardoning ceremony, but the kids learn the turkey is being taken to a slaughterhouse because the nearest animal sanctuary is full. With a reluctant Bob in tow and a reporter looking for a big scoop tagging along, the Belchers have to steal the turkey and take it to a farm.
- Casper the Friendly Ghost: The 1953 theatrical cartoon "Do or Diet" has the friendly ghost attempting to save a turkey with an insatiable appetite from becoming Thanksgiving dinner by trying to get the bird to lose weight before the farmer arrives.
- CatDog: In the episode "Talking Turkey," Dog tries to save a turkey from being eaten by Rancid Rabbit (and Cat).
- How Murray Saved Christmas: A Thanksgiving turkey is one of the countless holiday icons living in the town of Stinky Cigar.
- The Huckleberry Hound Show: A short titled "Grim Pilgrim" involved Huck's pursuit of a turkey, which was hindered by an Indian.
- The Tex Avery one-shot cartoon "Jerky Turkey" has a big schnook of a pilgrim hunting a wise-guy turkey modeled after Jimmy Durante.
- Looney Tunes:
- Tex Avery's 1940 short "Holiday Highlights" features a Thanksgiving turkey clip among other blackout gags surrounding various American holidays.
- In February 1944's "Tom Turk and Daffy," Porky Pig is the P-p-p-pilgrim attempting to hunt the eponymous Tom for his Thanksgiving dinner.
- The January 1949 Merrie Melodies short "Holiday for Drumsticks" has Daffy tricking a redesigned Tom Turk destined for Thanksgiving dinner into dieting and exercising while Daffy stuffs himself with all the fattening food meant for the turkey.
- Robot Chicken: One segment had the President of the United States pardoning the Thanksgiving turkey but, unfortunately, this one was a maniacal axe murderer who goes on a rampage after being freed.
- Rocko's Modern Life: In "Turkey Time", Rocko's house becomes a refuge for all of the Thanksgiving turkeys in O-Town.
- Rugrats: In "The Turkey Who Came to Dinner", the adults order a live turkey due to a turkey shortage. The babies befriend the turkey and try to save him from being eaten, but Angelica is determined to tell the parents about him.
- South Park: The episode "Helen Keller! The Musical" has the fourth graders preparing to put on a Thanksgiving-themed musical about Helen Keller in an attempt to outdo the kindergartners' play. Problems arise when Timmy chooses a disabled turkey named Gobbles to play the role of Keller's pet instead of a professionally trained bird.
- SuperMansion: The Thanksgiving special "A Prayer for Mr. T" has Titanium Rex attempt to cook a better Thanksgiving turkey than his old adversary and ex-teammate Dr. Devizo, who has deliberately made things difficult by revealing that he gave Marjorie the day off (Rex was hoping Marjorie to help him cook his turkey). When Rex tells Robobot to administer growth hormones to the turkey he's chosen, Robobot mistakenly gives it one of Brad's drugs, mutating the turkey into an enormous monster.
- Teacher's Pet: "The Turkey That Came to Dinner" has Leonard's Grandma Rose come over for Thanksgiving dinner. She brings over a live turkey named Lurkey, who is intended to become the turkey dinner. Spot, Mr. Jolly, and Pretty Boy are forced to spend the holiday away from the table because of Grandma Rose's assumed allergies and then try to do what they can to prevent Lurkey from becoming cooked.
- Teen Titans Go!: In "The Teen Titans Go Easter Holiday Classic," Santa Claus tries to take over both Easter and the rest of the calendar holidays. A turkey represents Thanksgiving.
- Total Drama: Scott's upbringing is suggested to be both pragmatic and eccentric. In "Food Fright", he compares his fullness from overeating to a Thanksgiving pigeon being stuffed.
- Xiaolin Showdown: Discussed in "My Homey Omi" when Clay compares The Serpent Tail to a Thanksgiving turkey when he sees how fast the Wu is moving through the subway. Given he is the American monk and a cowboy at that, he seems to know what he's talking about.
- Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade: The 1950s had a generic turkey balloon, 2003 featured the Gorgeous Gobbler (a recreation of the '50s turkey balloon), and 2004 included Alexander Mora's Turkey of World Peace (the winner of a 2004 Design a Balloon contest). And nearly every parade since 1973 has been led by the iconic Tom Turkey float.
- One interesting turkey-related tradition is the National Thanksgiving Turkey Presentation, in which the president of the United States is presented with a turkey to pardon from becoming part of a turkey dinner. Some say it originated with Abraham Lincoln pardoning a turkey that his son had grown fond of.