The White House Easter Egg Roll, Explained
Breaking news: egg roll ≠ egg hunt.
The White House Easter Egg Roll is one of the United States' greatest traditions. Alright, that might be a bit of a stretch, but it is one of the White House's oldest annual events, having been carried out for almost 200 years in a row. But, believe it or not, the annual White House Easter Egg Roll is not an egg hunt, although a hunt was added to the festivities beginning in the 1980s. So what actually happens during the Easter Egg Roll? Who attends? How many eggs are needed? We're so glad you asked.
What exactly is the White House Egg Roll?
The White House Egg Roll is an annual race where kids push eggs through the grass of the White House's lawn with long-handled spoons. The tradition began in 1878 when President Rutherford B. Hayes opened up the South Lawn to children who had been chased off the grounds of the U.S. Capitol, where the egg roll had been held starting in 1814 during the James Madison administration.
Who attends the event?
On average, upwards of 50,000 lottery applicants request up to 200,000 Egg Roll tickets in the lottery. In the past eight years, lottery ticket winners have come from all 50 states and a portion of the tickets are distributed to military families and public schools in Washington DC, Maryland and Virginia.
How many eggs are used during the event?
Over 14,000 hard-boiled eggs are hand-dyed for use in the Egg Roll and the hunt and guests at the egg dying station will decorate over 4,500 hard-boiled eggs on the day of the event. Additionally, the souvenir White House wooden eggs, one of which is given to each child in attendance, include the stamped signatures of the President and First Lady. More than 80,000 souvenir wooden eggs are made each year and are usually available for public purchase.
How has the Egg Roll evolved?
In 1933, the Easter Egg Roll was first broadcast to a national audience over the radio by Eleanor Roosevelt. Almost 30 years later, President Nixon became the first president to invite the Easter Bunny to be part of the event and soon after, President Reagan started the tradition of the egg hunt. In recent years, visually impaired children have also joined the Egg Roll and Egg Hunt through the use of special “chirping eggs.”