Easter egg rolls and sunrise services

There are many traditions and customs associated with how we honor and celebrate Easter.  Painted eggs, the exchanging of cards (both regular and postcards), the elevation of chickens and rabbits to special places of honor, church services, music, and egg-nicking are just a few.  All these have been used by artists to create illustrations for holiday postcards.

Several other interesting practices, some based on folklore and others on historical happenings, have also been captured on postcards. Regardless of their origins, though, each quickly developed a unique American flavor and appearance all their own.


Centuries before the birth of Christ, ancient Egyptians rolled eggs at the base of the giant pyramids.  Presumably, this custom had some connection with their religion and belief in the afterlife.  Later, it was practiced by early Christians in Europe as part of their faith following the fall of Rome. But it really caught on in the 1800s.

In this country the first important egg roll took place on the Capitol grounds in Washington, D.C.  Dolley Madison, wife of President James Madison began it all in 1810 (1816 by some accounts).  It continued with more and more regularity as the years passed by, but to the increasing dismay of Capitol groundskeepers who complained bitterly of the damage being done to the lawns by the egg rolling and stomping of little feet.

By the 1870s these service people had become outright hostile.  To the rescue came none other than "Lemonade Lucy," wife of President Rutherford Hayes. Lucy abhorred alcohol and refused to serve it in the White House, but she loved animals and children with the same passion she felt as a prohibitionist. In 1878, she and President Hayes inaugurated the Easter Egg Roll as an annual affair on the White House lawn.

Today it is still a celebrated occasion, well covered by the media.  By now it has become an elaborate affair. Each year 20,000 to 30,000, or more, children join in the fun.  It begins in the early morning and lasts until early evening. The participants are divided into groups of 5,000, or so. While eggs are being rolled, the Marine Corps Band, or some other service contingent, provides background music for the festivities.

Two of these modern-day Easter egg rolls are portrayed on postcards by Coral-Lee, the school teacher turned publisher in the fading decades of the 20th century.  They are part of her popular Regan presidency series.  One shows Nancy with two large rabbit characters (1981) and another (1982) depicts the presidential couple amidst all sorts of theatrical, advertising and cartoon folks such as Yogi Bear, Garfield the Cat, Mickey Mouse, Ronald McDonald, Little Orphan Annie, and Captain America.

Easter egg hunts are usually something different, though often a hunt precedes an egg roll.  Such fun fests trace their lineage back to the original superstition of going into the open fields, forests, mountainside, or even your own backyard, to find all the wonderful colored eggs left by the Easter Bunny and his helpers.

Nearly every village, town, and small city in America, at one time or the other, has held annual egg hunts on the town green or at the city park.  Some fascinating black-and-white photos postcards have recorded these joyous events over the years.


Early Christians believed that on Easter morning the sun danced in honor of the Resurrection.  People would gather together many hours before sunrise in anticipation of this celestial miracle.  The Moravians brought the tradition of Easter sunrise services to our shores in 1741 and the idea caught on.

During the 1880s and '90s and for most of the last century, Easter sunrise services were held in virtually every town and village.

Often there were several by the various denominations. Of all, though, the most celebrated of all was held in the famed Hollywood Bowl, Los Angeles. Begun in 1921, it brought out around 30,000 people every year. Highlighted by a living cross made up of 250 teenagers and a giant choir of 100 who, accompanied by a symphony orchestra, greeted the rising sun with the "Hallelujah" chorus and other hymns, the event became legendary. It and many of the other solemn services held elsewhere are found on postcards, including famous ones at Mount Rubidoux, Riverside, California and Mount Helix, San Diego.


Easter traditions, past and present, are to be found on various categories of postcards.  Some, especially those dealing with decorated eggs, are plentiful within the greeting topics. Cards about community gatherings and happenings, like sunrise services are to be found in the viewcard and photo themes.

All in all, they make for a great collection.