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The White House Easter Egg Roll

The White House lawn began as a replacement venue for the nation's capitol's Easter Egg Roll.

The tradition of rolling Easter eggs began in the mid-19th Century, on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol. Some sources say that the first roll sanctioned by a U.S. president took place during the administration of President Andrew Johnson (1865-1868).

What is known is that Congress in 1876 passed a law (the Turf Protection Law) forbidding the rolling of Easter eggs on the Capitol grounds. The following year, the weather was so bad during the Easter weekend that thoughts of rolling Easter eggs were far from people's minds, and so Congress had no opportunity to enforce its new law.

In 1878, however, the law was in full force and President Rutherford B. Hayes announced that he would allow the rolling of Easter eggs on the White House lawn (the South Lawn, to be precise), on Easter Monday. And a tradition was born, as President Hayes and First Lady Lucy Hayes opened the South Lawn to local children and their parents and the Easter eggs rolls down the lawn.

The tradition continued through the years, although no Easter Egg Rolls took place during World War I or World War II. As in 1877, poor weather was enough to cancel the White House Easter egg roll as well. Egg rolling events took place at other venues around Washington, D.C., the nation's capital city. Included in this unofficial list have been the National Zoo and the lawn outside the Washington Monument.

One tradition that has not carried down through the years is that it was not only the hard-boiled eggs that roll down the South Lawn of the White House. In the early days, children rolled themselves down the hill as well.

Official attendance at this annual event is usually listed in the tens of thousands. The all-time high was about 53,000, in the 1940s.

The event has become a daylong funfest, with games, songs, and (of course) the rolling of the Easter eggs. Attendees get to take home an official egg, made of wood and signed by both the President and the First Lady.

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