The children were determined.
On Easter Monday, 1878, several of them headed up Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House to inquire of President Rutherford B. Hayes “about the possibilities of egg rolling on the South Lawn of the White House.”
Impressed by their initiative – and mindful of the religious and historic significance of Easter – the president allowed the youngsters onto the lawn.
Thus began the first White House Easter Egg Roll — an Easter tradition that continues today.
The Easter Bunny
In 1885, young egg rollers marched into the East Room of the White House seeking to speak with President Grover Cleveland.
Charmed by the children, Cleveland hosted the first indoor egg roll.
Four years later, President Benjamin Harrison added music when he ordered the United States Marine Band to play while children rolled eggs and romped on the South Lawn.
In 1921 President Warren G. Harding introduced characters from the children’s play “Alice and the White Rabbit” into the event.
The first White House Easter Bunny appeared in 1969 when one of First Lady Pat Nixon’s staff put on a white jumpsuit and a Peter Rabbit mask and went out to shake paws with the children.
In 1981, President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan hosted a hunt for wooden eggs bearing the signatures of famous people. These eggs are now official White House Easter Egg Roll keepsakes.
Some Easter traditions to celebrate
While the White House prepares for its 141st Egg Rolling event, Americans also take part in fun activities.
1. Easter Egg Hunts
This tradition allows for adults to hide the treats and then enjoy watching children find them.
2. Easter Brunch
The day is not complete without good food, hot cross buns, great coffee and, perhaps, a sip of champagne.
3. Decorating Easter Eggs
Part of Easter’s symbolism and fun derives from the coloring of hard-boiled eggs and then hiding them for the young to find.
4. Making Easter Egg Baskets
These are the product of imagination – or the Easter Bunny – as it is always fun for family members to receive baskets full of jelly beans, chocolate and caramel eggs, gift certificates, and small gifts.
For families overseas
Easter is also celebrated in a number of countries around the world, and for both military and civilian families these events offer new perspectives.
Many families enjoy the traditional meal of lamb and spring vegetables with potatoes and a fresh mint sauce gravy. Parades, Easter egg hunts and egg rolls are also held.
The Easter Bunny leaves chocolate for children who have been good, and hot cross buns are popular as they originated in England.
Easter Mass is celebrated in most churches; the biggest is at Saint Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City. Dinner is usually lamb or goat with artichokes and Easter bread.
Easter marks the beginning of spring in this country, and the boiling and painting of eggs characterizes German culture.
On the eve of Easter Sunday, Germans light bonfires across the country to welcome the sun and spring. In the morning, children hunt for colorful eggs egg hunts.
The week before Easter is filled with unique traditions. Andalusia, in southern Spain, has the most elaborate celebrations; in Seville, the streets are filled with parades and religious displays; throughout the country, torrijas are a favorite food.
Although an Islamic country, there are Easter celebrations in Istanbul. Some hotels offer Easter Sunday buffets; there are Easter egg hunts for children; and bakeries offer sweet bread and eggs.
Easter is the most important holiday in the Orthodox Church. During Lent (the 50 days before Easter), Greeks eat only certain foods; on Easter they can eat what they want. A common dish is magiritsa, a soup made from the organs of lambs.
As President Hayes learned from a group of children, Easter is a day to enjoy.