That white rabbit better known this time of the year as the Easter Bunny kept everybody hopping yesterday at the 1980 version of the 102-year-old tradition called the White House Egg Roll.

There were no disappearances down rabbit holes, though there were some disappearances.

"I called and called and I couldn't find him anywhere," Virginia McCauley of Forestville, Md., said of the frantic search she and daughter Alicia 7, waged for J. j. McCauley, 5, in the crowd estimated at 20,000. They found him near Yogi Bear and Quick Draw McGraw.

And there were no falls into pools of human tears the way Alice did in Wonderland, though there certainly were plenty of tears.

"Don't cry, Victor. They're in a hurry here," Lee Ann Fegundo of Atlanta, Ga., soothed her 17-month-old son, dusting him off after he stumbled and fell. He had been abandoned by a White House volunteer dragging him by one arm off to the egg roll contest starting line.

President Carter made a brief appearance but kept his distance from any rabbits (white, warrior, killer or otherwise) on the grounds.

With him but going her own way was First Lady Rosalynn Carter. She told of sunrise services at Camp David on Easter Sunday and how, afterwards, the president and some of the male guests present hid 63 Easter eggs which Amy and company had dyed.

"They did such a good job of hiding the eggs," said Mrs. Carter, "that we had to help the children find them."

She also told of joining the president and Vice President Walter Mondale for lunch yesterday when Carter revealed his next move in the 156-day-old crisis over 53 Americans held hostage by Iranian militants.

To the movable mob of moppets -- infants to 8-year-olds -- the crisis in Iran was as remote as a White House egg roll would be to a bunch of Iranian militants.

"Can you imagine what they're going to say on Iranian TV when they see all these kids pushing eggs around with spoons?" observed one White House official.

Some people stood in line an hour and a half to push an egg around with a spoon. Like Andrew Ortega, 10 months, accompanied by his mother, Diana, of Rockville.

Of uncertain origin, the egg roll has been variously identified as a French custom, an Irish one called "trundling," a Scottish import and an Egyptian one. Whichever way it reached the White House, Mrs. Rutherford B. Hayes, wife of the 19th president (identified by this White House as the 20th), gets the credit for first opening the grounds to Washington children in 1878.

There have been larger crowds according to Eleanor Roosevelt, 53,108 attended in 1939. There have been messier crowds, which is why Congress passed a law in 1876 making it illegal to use Capitol Hill as a site for egg rolling.But probably there haven't been any more winning crowds. A total of 10,000 plastic eggs, containing welcoming messages from Rosalynn Carter, were distributed to yesterday's winning egg rollers.