Easter Monday and Egg Rolling at the White House
Rolling eggs, a tradition that once brought in the Secret Service.
By: Kelli Ballard | April 18, 2022 | 550 Words
It’s the day after Easter – or Easter Monday, as it’s often called. While today isn’t a federal holiday in the US like it is in many other parts of the world, there are still plenty of celebrations. The most famous is the White House Easter Egg Roll. Just as the name suggests, the core of the event is a contest of rolling Easter eggs.
History of the Easter Egg Roll
Some historians claim the idea was first suggested by First Lady Dolley Madison, wife of President James Madison. Others say that unofficial egg parties had been going on during Presidents Abraham Lincoln’s and Andrew Johnson’s days. The first official White House Easter Egg Roll, however, took place in 1878.
It is known that children had been rolling eggs on the west grounds of the Capitol since the 1870s. In 1876, however, there was concern because the event made a mess on the grounds, so Congress passed a law to ban the egg parties. Maybe President Rutherford B. Hayes was sad to see the kids missing out, because in 1878 he officially started the tradition that continues today by opening the South Lawn at the White House for the egg rolling. Previously, this part of the yard had been reserved for the First Family.
Children arrived on Easter Monday holding baskets full of brightly colored hardboiled eggs. In 1885, a group of young egg rollers went into the East Room. They wanted to talk to President Grover Cleveland. They got their wish, and the president was happy to see them, even though they left the carpet a mess thanks to the bits of egg and shell stuck on their shoes.
As you can imagine, this egg-rolling event became extremely popular. Sometimes, children would show up without a parent, and adults would attend without children. There were so many people attending that staff had to make up a new rule that limited the number of people going onto the South Lawn. According to the rule, “a grown person would be admitted only when accompanied by a child.” So, the youngsters became inventive, and some even started charging adults a fee to escort them past the security guards. People were shocked at the scheme, and on Easter Monday 1939, the Evening Star wrote about the Secret Service men who had been stationed at the gates to “break up the kids’ rackets.”
Easter Monday 2022
Monday, April 18, will be President Joe Biden’s first White House Easter Egg Rolling party. Previous parties included egg hunts and the egg rolling, where children push their eggs with wooden spoons. Music and crafts are usually available and costumed characters roam the lawn and meet the children.
The White House has an Easter egg collection that started in 1994. Artists across the nation send a decorated egg that represents a state as well as the District of Columbia. Each year, one artist is chosen to create next year’s commemorative egg, which is given to the president and first lady.