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White House hosts a soggy, education-themed Easter egg roll

(L-R) First lady Jill Biden, U.S. President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and second gentleman Doug Emhoff wave to guests during the White House Easter Egg Roll on the South Lawn on April 1, 2024, in Washington, D.C.
Chip Somodevilla
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(L-R) First lady Jill Biden, U.S. President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and second gentleman Doug Emhoff wave to guests during the White House Easter Egg Roll on the South Lawn on April 1, 2024, in Washington, D.C.

It's one of the few days of the year where the executive branch becomes a child's playground — and this year, the White House Easter Egg Roll drew kids to the South Lawn despite some intermittent rain.

The White House expected 40,000 people this year – which it said was a record for a tradition that goes back to 1878.

This year's event marks the third time President Biden and first lady Jill Biden have hosted it since it was canceled in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Playing up this year's theme – "EGGucation" Roll – means the White House is featuring a reading nook, a station to learn about the solar eclipse, science projects, and, of course, a visit from the Easter Bunny.

"I'm a teacher, so I love any time we can turn the White House into a classroom," said the first lady as she welcomed the crowd Monday morning.

President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden host the White House Easter Egg Roll on the South Lawn on April 1, 2024, in Washington, D.C.
Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images
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Getty Images
President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden host the White House Easter Egg Roll on the South Lawn on April 1, 2024, in Washington, D.C.
(L-R) First lady Jill Biden, U.S. President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and second gentleman Doug Emhoff wave to guests during the White House Easter Egg Roll.
Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images
/
Getty Images
(L-R) First lady Jill Biden, U.S. President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and second gentleman Doug Emhoff wave to guests during the White House Easter Egg Roll.

President Biden praised the event early Monday on NBC's Today show. "This is the people's house," Biden said. "It always makes me feel good to look out there and see average Americans just walking around, looking at what's going on. Because they own it."

The president and first lady joined children as they hunted for and rolled eggs. All told, the event's hunting, decorating and rolling – and snacking – required more than 64,000 eggs, which farmers in Pennsylvania and North Carolina donated, according to the American Egg Board. Braswell Family Farms of North Carolina boiled and dyed more than 6,000 eggs each day for eight days, and worked with the White House to curate special shades of orange, purple, pink and a "Biden blue."

President Joe Biden helps a young guest roll her hard-boiled egg down at the White House Easter Egg Roll.
Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images
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Getty Images
President Joe Biden helps a young guest roll her hard-boiled egg down at the White House Easter Egg Roll.
First Lady Jill Biden reads a book to children during the annual White House Easter Egg Roll.
/ Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images
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Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images
First Lady Jill Biden reads a book to children during the annual White House Easter Egg Roll.

"Easter reminds us of the power of hope and renewal, sacrifice and resurrection, but mainly love and grace toward one another," Biden said Monday at the event. "It's a time to pray for one another, to cherish the blessings and the possibilities that we have as Americans."

But the holiday was not free of controversy. Karoline Leavitt, former President Donald Trump's campaign press secretary, said Biden should apologize for celebrating Transgender Day of Visibility, which is always held on March 31, on Easter Sunday this year.

Other Republicans spoke out in agreement with the Trump campaign, including House Speaker Mike Johnson, who also criticized the White House for banning religious themes from being included in designs for the annual children's egg decorating contest. Johnson wrote that Biden "betrayed the central tenet of Easter — which is the resurrection of Jesus Christ" in a statement on X.

Guests participate in the annual White House Easter Egg Roll.
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Getty Images
Guests participate in the annual White House Easter Egg Roll.
President Joe Biden greets young guests during the White House Easter Egg Roll.
Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images
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Getty Images
President Joe Biden greets young guests during the White House Easter Egg Roll.

The White House and the American Egg Board, which supports the annual event, said that the rule over banning religious symbols has been a long-standing policy predating the Biden administration. It was in effect when Trump was in office.

"The American Egg Board has been a supporter of the White House Easter Egg Roll for over 45 years and the guideline language referenced in recent news reports has consistently applied to the board since its founding, across administrations," said American Egg Board president and CEO Emily Metz.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

The Old Guard participates in the annual Easter Egg Roll.
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AFP via Getty Images
The Old Guard participates in the annual Easter Egg Roll.
Children participate in the annual White House Easter Egg Roll on the South Lawn of the White House.
Kent Nishimura / Getty Images
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Getty Images
Children participate in the annual White House Easter Egg Roll on the South Lawn of the White House.
Guests arrive to participate in the annual White House Easter Egg Roll.
Kent Nishimura / Getty Images
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Getty Images
Guests arrive to participate in the annual White House Easter Egg Roll.
Children participate in the White House Easter Egg Roll.
Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images
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Getty Images
Children participate in the White House Easter Egg Roll.
The Easter Bunny joins White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre for the daily news briefing at the White House.
Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images
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Getty Images
The Easter Bunny joins White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre for the daily news briefing at the White House.

Jeongyoon Han