Consider this your personal invitation to the first lady's very own Easter extravaganza: The annual White House Easter Egg Roll will be taking place on Monday, April 13, 2020, and there will be plenty at this noble shindig to entertain the whole family, including an obligatory visit from the famous hare himself.
The capital city is, of course, home to a host of Easter events, but none top this beloved and historic tradition that dates back to 1878, when President Rutherford B. Hayes opened the White House grounds for the first of many presidential egg rolls to come.
But what exactly is an egg roll—besides the delicious deep-fried appetizer that often accompanies chow mein—after all? In the context of Easter, it's a race where kids push decorated eggs across a grassy lawn with long-handled spoons.
History of the White House Easter Egg Roll
Even before President Hayes' inaugural egg roll, informal Easter parties were recorded at the White House during the early Lincoln administration. In the post-Civil War years, games were played on the grounds surrounding the U.S. Capitol Building. In 1876, an act of Congress outlawed such activities to protect the property from destruction.
After being canceled due to World Wars I and II, President Dwight D. Eisenhower and First Lady Mamie Eisenhower revived the event in 1953 after a 12-year hiatus. Pat Nixon's staff introduced a White House Easter Bunny—a staffer who roamed the grounds in costume—In 1969.
By 1974, the activities evolved into organized egg-rolling races. The 1981 eggstravaganza included clowns and dressed-up characters, balloons, Broadway show vignettes, a petting zoo, exhibits of antique cars, and an eggxposition of specially decorated eggs (one for each state).
It's been nearly 150 years since the first White House Easter Egg Roll and the festive shindig has become a spring staple since its 19th-century beginnings. In fact, it is now the longest-held annual presidential tradition.
What to Expect
The White House Easter Egg Roll includes an egg hunt, egg dying and decorating, a traditional egg roll, musical performances, celebrity-led story time (told by the characters of Sesame Street and the Obamas in the past), and visits with the Easter Bunny.
Guests enter the event from the Ellipse—outside the south side of the White House—and are then prompted to go through a security screening process. No food, beverages, duffel bags, suitcases, or backpacks are allowed on the grounds. Strollers, diaper bags, baby formula, and baby bottles are permitted.
The event takes place on the open and expansive South Lawn. Consult a map of the White House area for more details on entering this 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue attraction.
Each egg roller receives a goody bag filled with a program, toys from corporate sponsors, and food. Each child under 12 will also leave the event with a commemorative wooden egg. 2020's design comes in gold, blue, green, pink, and yellow and features the White House North Portico on the front and the signatures of President Donald Trump and his wife Melania on the back. These are available for sale (about $15) from the White House Gift Shop starting March 12 as well.
The White House Easter Egg Roll is a ticketed event. The good news is that it's free; the bad news is that not everyone gets to attend. Families with children 13 years old and younger can enter into a lottery on Recreation.gov by February 24, 2020, and on March 4, the White House will notify the winners. Most of the roughly 30,000 people who attend the event every year gain entry through this lottery. Others participate by volunteering (applications are accepted February 4 through 11).