Families attend National Zoo’s egg hunt
Event has been held for over 100 years
The Easter Bunny was long gone Monday, when scavenger hunts and egg rolls were held at the National Zoo as part of a century-old springtime tradition.
Since 1891, African-American families on Easter Monday have flocked to the zoo, where the day is celebrated with kid-friendly activities such as: an Easter egg hunt, egg roll and animal shows directed by zoo employees.
Brittney Williams said she has fond memories of spending Easter Mondays at the zoo as a child. Monday morning, she strolled down the Olmsted Walk with her two children, Anthony and Ava.
“It’s something I want them to know, a memory they can think back on when they get older,” said Ms. Williams, 32. “I don’t know when or how [the tradition] started, but I want to carry it on.”
Many visitors could not trace the origins of the tradition, but one theory offered by zoo officials is that African Americans went to the zoo because they were not allowed to attend the White House Easter Egg Roll, which also takes place on Easter Monday.
Another theory is that black housekeepers used to have to work on Easter Sunday, so they celebrated on the Monday after Easter at the zoo.
Regardless of how the post-holiday ritual began, it has become a multicultural event that attracts hundreds of families in the District every year.
“The kids love it,” Ms. Williams said as she pushed 3-year-old Ava in a stroller.
The Williams family came prepared for the day’s rain, with ponchos and an umbrella in tow. Anthony, 7, dodged puddles as he excitedly pointed toward his favorite exhibit.
“The panda!” he said, running toward the entrance to the Asia Trail, which leads to the zoo’s giant panda exhibits.
Piggybacking on the popularity of its three live panda bears, the zoo in 2014 debuted the “Easter Panda” — a panda dressed as an Easter Bunny with a panda body and head with rabbit ears.
Along with a visit from the Easter Panda, families enjoyed field games and education booths with staff from the National Air and Space Museum and the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute’s Endocrine Research Lab.
In recent years, officials have enhanced security measures at the zoo during Easter Monday.
Safety concerns heightened after two teens were wounded on Connecticut Avenue when shots were fired near the zoo in 2014.
Guests carrying bags now pass through a security line before entering the zoo, which can delay entry time by up to half an hour.
Neither the security line nor the wet weather ruined the day for the Williams family, according to Ms. Williams.
“The line wasn’t too bad,” she said. “And the rain’s keeping us cool.”
Despite the weather, thousands flocked to the National Zoo on Monday as part of an Easter tradition.