Egg roll on the South Lawn of the White House in 1929

Egg rolling, or an Easter egg roll is a traditional game played with eggs at Easter. Different nations have different versions of the game, usually played with hard-boiled, decorated eggs.


In Christianity, for the celebration of Eastertide, Easter eggs symbolize the empty tomb of Jesus, from which he was resurrected.[1][2][3] Additionally, eggs carry a Trinitarian significance, with shell, yolk, and albumen being three parts of one egg.[4] During Lent, the season of repentance that precedes Easter, eggs along with meat, lacticinia, and wine are foods that are traditionally abstained from, a practice that continues in Eastern Christianity and among certain Western Christian congregations that do the Daniel Fast.[5][6] After the forty-day Lenten season concludes and Eastertide begins, eggs may be consumed again, giving rise to various traditions such as egg rolling,[7] which also symbolizes the angel rolling away the stone at the entrance of the tomb.[8]

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom the tradition of rolling decorated eggs down grassy hills goes back hundreds of years and is known as "pace-egging". The term originates from the Old English Pasch, taken from the Hebrew Pesach meaning Passover.[9] In Lancashire there are annual egg rolling competitions at Holcombe Hill near Ramsbottom and Avenham Park in Preston. Egg rolling has been a tradition at Avenham Park for hundreds of years, but in recent years chocolate eggs have been used.[10] Other traditional egg rolling sites are the castle moat at Penrith, Bunkers Hill in Derby, Arthur's Seat in Edinburgh,[11] Hill 60 on the Beverley Westwood and on Penshaw Hill in Tyne and Wear at Penshaw Monument.[12]

Traditionally, the eggs were wrapped in onion skins and boiled to give them a mottled, gold appearance (although today they usually are painted), and the children competed to see who could roll their egg the farthest.[9] There is an old Lancashire legend that says the broken eggshells should be crushed carefully afterward, or these would be stolen and used as boats by witches.[13] The eggs were eaten on Easter Sunday or given out to pace-eggers – fantastically dressed characters who processed through the streets singing traditional pace-egging songs and collecting money as a tribute before performing traditional mumming plays.[14] At the Wordsworth Museum in Grasmere, there is a collection of highly decorated eggs made for the poet's children.[14]

In Scotland, pace-eggin is traditional from Shetland to The Borders although the day varied with location. Pace-egg day variously was Holy Saturday, Easter Sunday, or Easter Monday.[15] Paiss-braes, hills, were used or other grassy slopes or areas such as seaside links.[15] There is some variation in the spelling and pronunciation of the term pace, including pash, peace and paste.[15]

United States

The Reagans at the 1982 White House Easter egg roll

In the United States, the Easter Egg Roll is held on the White House South Lawn each Easter Monday for children (age 13 and younger) and their parents. It is hosted by the President of the United States and the First Lady of the United States.

The Trumps at the 2019 White House Easter egg roll

The Egg Roll is a race where children push an egg through the grass with a long-handled spoon.[16] Surrounding events include appearances by White House personalities in Easter Bunny costumes, speeches and book-reading by cabinet secretaries, and exhibits of artistically decorated eggs.

Egg rolling on The Ellipse in 1929, with the White House visible in the background

According to tradition,[17] Dolley Madison, the wife of President James Madison, began the event in 1814. Hundreds of children brought their decorated eggs to join in games. Rolling Easter eggs was a popular annual custom in Washington, D.C., and Alexandria, Virginia, as early as the 1850s. Children rolled eggs on Easter Monday (and sometimes Good Friday) at the Capitol, the White House, and other parks and open spaces.[18] Easter eggs were rolled at the Capitol as early as 1855[19] and at the White House as early as 1860.[20] By the 1870s, the Capitol had become the most popular place to roll eggs, although they were also rolled at the White House and other places.[18]

In 1876, shortly after a particularly rambunctious Easter egg roll destroyed much of the lawn at the Capitol, Congress passed a law making it illegal to use the Capitol complex as a children's playground. Heavy rain prevented much egg rolling in 1877, so the ban was not tested until 1878.[21]

President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden kick off the Egg Roll races in 2023.

At the request of a number of children, including his own, then President Rutherford B. Hayes and his wife Lucy Hayes brought the event to the White House lawns in 1878.[22] From that year on, the egg roll would be an annual White House event, with the exception of 1917 (moved to the Washington Monument), 1918–1920 (canceled due to food shortages and influenza concerns), 1942 (moved to the Capitol West Lawn), 1943–1945 (World War II), 1946–1947 (food conservation), 1948–1952 (restoration of the White House) and 2020–2021 (social distancing measures to mitigate the COVID-19 pandemic),[23][24][25] then resumed in 2022. [26]

In 1953, Mamie Eisenhower proposed that the event be opened to black children, who were allowed to participate starting in 1954.[27] Since 1977 the marketing group The American Egg Board has heavily supported the event.

The event was featured in the 2007 film National Treasure: Book of Secrets.

Other countries

In Germany, a prize is awarded to the contestant whose egg rolls the fastest down a track made of sticks. In Denmark, decorated eggs are rolled down slopes in grassland or forest, and the contestant whose egg rolls farthest is the winner, with unbroken eggs eaten after the game. The tradition is widespread around the town of Køge. In Lithuania, one collects those eggs touched by the one rolled.

In Egypt, children bowl red and yellow eggs toward another row of eggs, and whoever's egg cracks one egg may claim them all.

In eastern Europe, there are other traditions such as egg tapping and egg decorating.[28]

See also


  1. ^ Jordan, Anne (5 April 2000). Christianity. Nelson Thornes. ISBN 9780748753208. Easter eggs are used as a Christian symbol to represent the empty tomb. The outside of the egg looks dead but inside there is new life, which is going to break out. The Easter egg is a reminder that Jesus will rise from His tomb and bring new life. Orthodox Christians dye boiled eggs red to make red Easter eggs that represent the blood of Christ shed for the sins of the world.
  2. ^ The Guardian, Volume 29. H. Harbaugh. 1878. Just so, on that first Easter morning, Jesus came to life and walked out of the tomb, and left it, as it were, an empty shell. Just so, too, when the Christian dies, the body is left in the grave, an empty shell, but the soul takes wings and flies away to be with God. Thus you see that though an egg seems to be as dead as a stone, yet it really has life in it; and also it is like Christ's dead body, which was raised to life again. This is the reason we use eggs on Easter. (In days past some used to color the eggs red, so as to show the kind of death by which Christ died,-a bloody death.)
  3. ^ Geddes, Gordon; Griffiths, Jane (22 January 2002). Christian belief and practice. Heinemann. ISBN 9780435306915. Red eggs are given to Orthodox Christians after the Easter Liturgy. They crack their eggs against each other's. The cracking of the eggs symbolizes a wish to break away from the bonds of sin and misery and enter the new life issuing from Christ's resurrection.
  4. ^ Murray, Michael J.; Rea, Michael C. (20 March 2008). An Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion. Cambridge University Press. p. 68. ISBN 978-1-139-46965-4.
  5. ^ "Lent: Daniel Fast Gains Popularity". HuffPost. Religion News Service. February 7, 2013. Retrieved December 30, 2018. In some cases, entire churches do the Daniel Fast together during Lent. The idea strikes a chord in Methodist traditions, which trace their heritage to John Wesley, a proponent of fasting. Leaders in the African Methodist Episcopal Church have urged churchgoers to do the Daniel Fast together, and congregations from Washington to Pennsylvania and Maryland have joined in.
  6. ^ Hinton, Carla (20 February 2016). "The Fast and the Faithful: Catholic parish in Oklahoma takes up Lenten discipline based on biblical Daniel's diet". The Oklahoman. Retrieved 27 March 2022. Many parishioners at St. Philip Neri are participating in the Daniel fast, a religious diet program based on the fasting experiences of the Old Testament prophet Daniel. ... participating parishioners started the fast Ash Wednesday (Feb. 10) and will continue through Holy Saturday, the day before Easter Sunday.
  7. ^ Helterbran, Valeri R. (16 February 2012). Why Rattlesnakes Rattle: ...and 250 Other Things You Should Know. Taylor Trade Publications. p. 110. ISBN 978-1-58979-649-2.
  8. ^ Kornfeld, Myra (16 October 2007). The Healthy Hedonist Holidays: A Year of Multi-Cultural, Vegetarian-Friendly Holiday Feasts. Simon and Schuster. p. 208. ISBN 978-0-7432-8725-8.
  9. ^ a b see "Curious 28". Archived from the original on 2008-03-04. Retrieved 2008-03-15. Retrieved on 2008-03-15
  10. ^ "Easter Egg Rolling". Preston City Council. 2012. Archived from the original on 7 April 2012. Retrieved 7 April 2012.
  11. ^ "Easter days out in Britain". The Guardian. 2012-03-30. Retrieved 2022-04-17.
  12. ^ "Traditional Easter fun with egg-rolling at Penshaw Monument". The Northern Echo. Newsquest (North East) Ltd. 14 April 2017. Retrieved 26 March 2018.
  13. ^ "Retrieved on 2008-03-15". Retrieved 2011-12-16.
  14. ^ a b see "Pace Egging". Retrieved on 2008-03-15
  15. ^ a b c "Dictionary of the Scots Language :: SND :: Pace n". Retrieved 2017-04-16.
  16. ^ "White House Egg Roll Transforms South Lawn". NPR. Retrieved 2011-12-16.
  17. ^ "Dolley Madison Biography :: National First Ladies' Library". Archived from the original on 2012-05-09. Retrieved 2010-04-05.
  18. ^ a b Jensen Brown, Peter (2019-04-25). "Impeachment, Congressional Subpoenas and Property Damage, How the Easter Egg Roll Became a White House Tradition". Early Sports n Pop Culture History Blog. Retrieved 1 May 2019.
  19. ^ Triweekly Washington Sentinel, April 7, 1855
  20. ^ "Easter with the Juveniles". The Evening Star. No. 2228. April 9, 1860. p. 3. To-day, according to yearly custom, the juveniles, boys and girls, are enjoying themselves immensely in the President's grounds rolling Easter eggs down the slopes, cracking them, and having a merry time generally. The grounds are fairly musical with their ringing, childish laughter.
  21. ^ Arbelbide, C. L. (Spring 2000). "With Easter Monday You Get Egg Roll". Prologue Magazine. 32 (1). Retrieved 1 May 2019.
  22. ^ "History of the White House Easter Egg Roll". Archived from the original on 2011-05-27. Retrieved 2011-12-16.
  23. ^ "Easter Egg Roll Significant Dates". White House Historical Association. Retrieved 2017-04-18.
  24. ^ Kurtz, Judy (16 March 2020). "White House cancels Easter Egg Roll". The Hill. Retrieved 31 March 2024.
  25. ^ Gomez, Justin (21 March 2021). "White House Easter Egg Roll canceled due to COVID-19 pandemic". ABC News. Retrieved 31 March 2024.
  26. ^ Chamlee, Virginia (April 15, 2022). "The White House Easter Egg Roll Returns After COVID Pause with 'EGGucation' Theme". People. Retrieved 2022-04-17.
  27. ^ Bumiller, Elisabeth (April 10, 2006). "The Egg Roll (Again!) Becomes a Stage for Controversy". New York Times. Archived from the original on November 5, 2020.
  28. ^ Polan, Linda; Cantwell, Aileen (1983). The Whole Earth Holiday Book. Good Year Books. ISBN 978-0-673-16585-5.