WASHINGTON – Youthful Easter game enthusiasts needed winter coats this year at the annual White House Easter Egg Roll, which was held Monday.
Temperatures started out just above freezing in Washington, where children 7 and younger hopped to keep warm — like a certain bunny that makes an appearance at this time of year — as they participated in the famous event on the South Lawn.
The cold didn't keep thousands of excited youngsters from running, jumping and skipping merrily across the patch of grass reserved for the egg roll at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Young people competing in the races pushed eggs across a stretch of the White House lawn using giant spoons. The festivities also included an egg hunt, musical performances, reading, magicians and face painting.
President Bush joined his wife, Laura, his mother and former first lady, Barbara Bush, and daughter, Jenna, in presiding over the festivities.
About 7,500 eggs were available for the egg roll races. Another 3,200 dyed eggs were being used for the egg hunt and 4,500 were boiled for children to dye.
The rite of spring at the White House dates to President Rutherford B. Hayes' administration in 1878.
The event included live entertainment from the 'tween-minded pop-rock band the Jonas Brothers and other stage performers.
Well-known characters like the Cat in the Hat, Tweety Bird, Charlie Brown, Mickey Mouse, Snoopy, Clifford the Big Red Dog and the official White House Easter bunnies were also in attendance.
And some activities highlighted this year's educational theme, "Ocean Conservation," including marine-life painting with the artist Wyland.
Laura Bush was joined by special guest readers including sportscaster and former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman, children's book authors Nancy Tafuri and Rosemary Wells, and Kyle Massey, star of the hit television show "Cory in the House."
The tradition of dying Easter eggs bright colors and exchanging them, hiding them and playing other games dates back to the ancient Persians. They have been coloring eggs for their New Year celebration, Nowrooz — which falls on the Spring equinox — for the past 2,500 years.
Hard-boiled eggs dipped in salt water were also used during the Jewish Passover to symbolize new life and to offer as a sacrifice at temple during the holiday.
Christians incorporated the egg into their Easter celebration, also as a symbol of rebirth and life, since the egg is seen as representative of both the grave Christ broke free from after death and of his Resurrection.
Easter egg games like hunts and rolls are played to incorporate the symbols of spring and rejuvenation into the festivities in ways that are fun for children. Such traditions believed to bring good luck, love and friendship.
Egg rolls, like the famous one done on the White House lawn, has its roots in parts of the United Kingdom — mainly England and Scotland — when people would roll painted eggs down steep hills on Easter Sunday.