The History of White House Easter Egg Roll: First President To Host Event

Inaugurations are not the only huge event the U.S. Presidents throw for the people.

The Monday following Easter Sunday, traditionally sees the White House open its South Lawn to crowds of children young and old, for the annual Easter Egg Roll.

Such is its popular appeal, the White House Easter Egg Roll has over time, become one of the biggest annual events organized at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Newsweek delves deep into the tradition's and history of the White House Easter Egg Roll.

White House Easter Egg Roll
First Lady Jill Biden (L) presents a flower to the Easter Bunny (C), alongside US President Joe Biden after Biden spoke about the Easter holiday and the traditional White House Easter Egg roll, which was not held this year because of Covid, on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, DC, April 5, 2021 SAUL LOEB / AFP/Getty Images

What Is The White House Easter Egg Roll?

Described as "one of the oldest traditions in White House history", the 2022 edition of the White House Easter Egg Roll will take place on the South Lawn on Easter Monday, April 18.

Rolling eggs on the Monday following Easter was a tradition observed by many Washington families, including those of the President.

Some historians believe fourth president James Madison's wife Dolley first suggested the idea of a public egg roll.

Others tell stories of informal egg-rolling parties at the White House dating back to President Abraham Lincoln's time.

The White House has historically been the hub of social activity for an administration, with several hundred events, public and private, held there annually.

However, as the U.S. grappled with the spread of Covid-19, The People's House has consequently been relatively subdued for the past two years.

Tickets to the 2022 edition of the White House Easter Egg Roll became freely available to the public via an online lottery that closed on Thursday, March 31.

Entering the lottery was free of charge, and randomly selected lottery winners will have now been notified via email by Thursday, April 7.

White House Easter Egg Roll
Children participate in the 141st Easter Egg Roll on the South Lawn of the White House April 22, 2019 in Washington, DC. About 30,000 people are expected to attend the annual tradition of rolling colored eggs down the South Lawn of the White House that dates back to the Rutherford B. Hayes Administration in 1878 Alex Wong/Getty Images

History of White House Easter Egg Roll

White House historians believe children started rolling their Easter eggs down a hill at the Capitol building in Washington, D.C. in the 1870s.

But while this may sound like harmless fun to modern-day readers, some locals at the time reportedly found this Easter pastime unacceptable.

This resulted in a bill being written, banning the Easter egg rolling practice, which President Ulysses Grant signed into law in 1876.

And while inclement weather meant the first year of the ban was too wet for egg-rolling, the practice remained very popular in 1878.

Children who arrived at the Capitol for Easter egg rolling ready to go were thrown out by the authorities. Accounts vary whether the children spontaneously headed to the White House.

White House Easter Egg Roll
A child plays at the White House. The focus has not in recent years been on the president, or the first lady, who officially hosts the event, but on another VIP—the Easter bunny Win McNamee/Getty Images

WhiteHouseHistory.org suggests the next President Rutherford B. Hayes then opted to open the South Lawn to egg rollers, which had previously been reserved for the First Family's private Easter activities.

Years later, President Richard Nixon introduced competitive egg roll races to the day's events, kick starting a more competitive spirit to the day's proceedings.

Nixon's wife Pat also introduced the involvement of a larger than life costumed Easter Bunny, during the 1969 Easter Egg Roll.

For six years running, the wife of President Ronald Reagan's attorney general Edwin Meese, Ursula, was so popular, she was eventually known as "The Meester Bunny."

And former President Donald Trump White House staffer Sean Spicer also has had his Easter Bunny past revealed.