The White House Easter Egg Roll is a time-honored tradition dating back to 1878

By Tierney McAfee
April 13, 2017 01:10 PM
Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty

The annual White House Easter Egg Roll is right around the corner, so what better time to look back at how past presidents have hosted their egg rolls?

This tradition dates back to 1878, when President Rutherford B. Hayes welcomed local children to the White House South Lawn for the first official egg roll. The event, held each year on Easter Monday, has only ever been canceled due to bad weather, World War I and World War II.

The Easter Egg Roll is considered the most high-profile and elaborate public event thrown at the White House, as well as one of the most heavily promoted. In recent years, it has featured A-list performers like Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande, Idina Menzel and Silentó.

April 11, 1977: President Jimmy Carter carries his grandson Jason on his shoulders as he mingles on the South Lawn of the White House with thousands of young children in the traditional Easter Egg Roll. With them are First Daughter Amy, First Lady Rosalynn Carter; and at right, Judy, Jason’s mother.
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Traditions at the event include the egg roll itself (the rolling of colorfully dyed eggs across the South Lawn), the giving out of souvenir eggs (a tradition started in 1981 by President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan) and the president posing with the White House Easter Bunny (typically played by an obliging staffer and once, under President George W. Bush, by Trump press secretary Sean Spicer, then an aide in the Office of the United States Trade Representative.)

April 12, 1982: Crowds of people dressed as comic and television personalities join President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan on the South Grounds at the White House to celebrate Easter Monday and partake in the traditional Easter Egg Roll.
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April 13, 1998: President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary Clinton open the annual White House Easter Egg Roll.
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March 24, 2008: President George W. Bush pauses to embrace a person dressed as the Easter Bunny during the annual Easter Egg Roll on the South Lawn of the White House.
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The theme for last year’s Easter Egg Roll — which drew 37,000 people — was “Let’s Celebrate!” in honor of President Barack Obama‘s final year in office.

April 9, 2012: President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama and daughters Malia and Sasha watch participants roll eggs during the White House Easter Egg Roll.
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April 6, 2015: President Obama, Michelle Obama and the “Easter Bunny” arrive on the balcony for the start for the annual Easter Egg Roll.
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In 2015, the president read Maurice Sendak’s Where The Wild Things Are to a group of children, played tennis with pro Caroline Wozniacki and shot some hoops with Washington Wizards player John Wall and NFL star Calais Campbell.

April 6, 2015: President Obama makes a face as he reads Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak.
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The popular band Fifth Harmony and cast members of So You Think You Can Dance also performed in honor of the fifth anniversary of Let’s Move!, former First Lady Michelle Obama’s initiative to get children active.

April 6, 2015: Michelle Obama dances with members of the All Stars from the television show So You Can Dance.
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This year’s Easter Egg Roll, hosted by President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump, is expected to be a “smaller and less ambitious” affair, The New York Times reported Tuesday.

Stephanie Grisham, the new communications director for the first lady, tells PEOPLE that, “while attendance numbers will be down a bit, that was by design. It is our understanding that past years had gotten so large that children were not able to enjoy the activities.”

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“We are very excited about this year’s event,” she continued. “The focus is on the quality of the children’s experience and the rich tradition of the Easter egg roll. We have over a dozen activity stations planned, including a few new additions that we are very excited about.”