Traditions have to start somewhere, but who can say exactly where and when someone carved the first jack o’ lantern or placed the first star atop a Christmas tree? Maybe that’s why I’ve always taken a certain satisfaction in knowing that one of the nation’s favorite rites of spring – the annual White House Easter Egg Roll – originated with an Ohio-born president, Rutherford B. Hayes, on April 22, 1878.
A native of Delaware, Ohio, President Hayes and wife Lucy had lived in the White House for just over a year when they opened its South Lawn for egg rolling on Easter Monday in 1878. Although the event previously took place on the U.S. Capitol grounds, Congress had passed a law prohibiting children from playing there.
As the story goes, President Hayes was taking a walk when some youngsters approached him and asked if they could roll eggs at the White House. Since the Hayeses themselves were the parents of eight children, hosting the egg rollers must have been an easy decision. The rest, as they say, is history. This tradition continues in Ohio!
Thanks to President and Mrs. Hayes, the fun of an Easter Egg Roll is also a memory-making ritual at a very special place in Ohio – Spiegel Grove, the beautiful Victorian mansion they called home after leaving Washington. Now part of the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library & Museum in Fremont, Spiegel Grove has a broad front yard where hundreds of children gather on the Saturday before Easter for egg rolling competitions.
This year, the Hayes Easter Egg Roll includes old-fashioned activities like pushing eggs across the lawn with wooden spoons as well as modern-day cornhole games, face painting, and visits with the Easter Bunny. The event is open to children ages 3 to 10, and it has a unique admission “fee” – three hard-boiled colored eggs to use in the contests.