The Easter Egg Roll
The South Lawn of the White House has been home to the annual Easter Egg Roll since 1878, but the festivities had a different start at the Capitol building two years earlier. Easter Monday of 1876 saw more than 10,000 children marching towards the newly completed Capital carrying baskets overflowing with colorfully dyed eggs. They had come to enjoy a peculiar holiday tradition that had been popping up in the nation’s capital during the 1800’s. The tradition involved children rolling hard-boiled eggs down the hills in Washington, D.C., to see which egg would travel the farthest without breaking. There was nowhere better for this tradition than up on Capitol Hill. But, alas, the noise had drowned out any work being done within the House and the Senate bringing the congressmen out to inspect what the commotion was all about. What they found was throngs of children wearing the grass bare and leaving the hillside in disarray. Congress was outraged at the destruction and created the Turf Protection Law and President Ulysses S. Grant signed it into law less that two weeks later. Thus creating a legal “get off my lawn” movement from congress towards the children of Washington, D.C.
Two years later President Rutherford B. Hayes instructed his guards to allow the popular tradition to continue on the hilly landscape of the White House’s backyard. This stood as the first official White House Easter Egg Roll. The tradition grew quickly while Presidents watched the festivities from the South Portico. In 1887 President Grover Cleveland personally shook hands with all of the children in the East Room and two years later President Benjamin Harrison recruited the United States Marine Band for the festivities.
Festivities grew and grew with each President and crowds swelled more and more. The only thing that could interfere with these festivities each year was wartime. Festivities had to be cancelled during World War I and World War II. But after a 12-year hiatus President Dwight D. Eisenhower brought the tradition back to the White House.
There have been numerous additions to the annual Easter Egg Roll since President Hayes began the tradition in 1878. Keeping with tradition President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump will be hosting the 35,000 ticket holders – distributed by a public lottery for the events – on Monday April 17, 2017.