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Yearly White House Egg Roll Celebrates Easter

The yearly White House Egg Roll celebrates Easter.  Today, the Easter Egg Roll has grown from a few local children rolling eggs on the White House lawn to the largest event held at the White House.  Tickets are open to everyone through a lottery system.

Today, the Easter Egg Roll has grown from a few local children rolling eggs on the White House lawn to become the largest event held at the White House

The White House Egg Roll has been an Easter tradition since the 1870s. Originally it was an Easter Monday custom peculiar to Washington City. Evolving in the post-Civil War years, the festival of egg games took place on the rolling terraces surrounding the United States Capitol.

The gatherings were “very democratic” and mixed without regards to race, color, and “previous conditions of servitude.” Childhood knew no social barriers. The scenes were so fresh it was difficult to imagine that Washington had been one of the principal slave markets in the nation.

President Lincoln Embraced the Egg Games

Unofficially, children had been rolling eggs at the White House since Abraham Lincoln’s children enjoyed the games.

As Easter of 1865 approached, the surrender at Appomattox on April 9th formally ended the Civil War. The resulting celebration with a Grand Illumination of the Capitol was held on Thursday evening, April 13.

Within twenty-four hours, the euphoric mood dimmed as word spread that Abraham Lincoln had been shot while attending the theater on the evening of Good Friday.

News of the President’s death that Saturday was shocking as the pre-planned edition of The Evening Star featured an article on the meaning of Easter with local children trading colored eggs.

Easter Monday

Easter Monday had accomplished what no war could do. According to The San Francisco Call, April 10, 1898:

“All sorts and conditions of children find their way to the president’s grounds to enjoy Easter Monday. Some of the children are beautifully dressed in silks and laces and have French nurses to watch over them and carry their eggs for them, while other little ones are dressed in very shabby garments with elbows out and toes peeping from their little shoes.”

The exact details of how the festivities ended up at the White House are not known. However, President Rutherford B. Hayes (1877-1881) was the first President to officially allow the egg roll to take place on White House grounds.

By the late 1800s such games as “Egg Picking,” “Egg Ball,” “Toss and Catch,” and “Egg Croquet” had become popular Easter Monday egg games.

On Monday, April 6th, 2015, the First Family will host the 137th annual White House Easter Egg Roll. More than 35,000 people will gather on the South Lawn to join in the celebrations.
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