Grandparents Day: Everything You Need To Know
Grandparents Day falls on the first Sunday after Labor Day. Historically, Grandparents Day was created and initiated by a couple from West Virginia, Marian Lucille Herndon McQuade along with her husband, Joseph L. McQuade. Marian McQuade wanted this day to be a family celebration to honor all grandparents and to give them the opportunity to show their love and affection to their grandchildren. Additionally, Grandparents Day was created to raise awareness among younger people of the strength and guidance that elderly people can provide.
What Is Grandparents Day?
Grandparents Day was not conceived as a commercialized holiday. It was established to celebrate family connections between generations and it has remained true to this thrust. Grandparents Day is celebrated on the first Sunday after Labor Day because the month of September signifies “the autumn years” of life.
How It Began
In 1956, while in the midst of helping organize a community celebration for seniors over 80, Marian McQuade realized that a lot of old folks in the nursing homes were not being visited by their families. Because of this, McQuade made it her goal to bring awareness about the plight of elderly people by creating a special holiday to honor all the grandparents who have been forgotten by their families.
McQuade envisioned small and private family gatherings and reunions as well as community events during this special celebration. It became an opportunity to recognize and affirm the important role that grandparents fulfill in families. Grandparents Day was meant to be a day of giving and sharing: of giving one’s self and of sharing values, hopes, and dreams.
She began her quest in 1970 and worked alongside civic, church, business, and political leaders to launch Grandparents Day in her home state. In 1973, West Virginia became the first state to proclaim Grandparents Day during Governor Arch Moore’s term and by the earnest request of Mrs. McQuade.
That same year, a Senate resolution to make Grandparents Day into a national holiday was introduced by Senator Jennings Randolph. However, Sen. Randolph’s efforts were initially disregarded by the committee, thus prompting McQuade to reach out to governors, senators, and congressmen from all fifty states. Her persistence and hard work paid off when President Jimmy Carter finally signed the proclamation and declared the first Sunday after Labor Day as National Grandparents Day on August 3, 1978.
Part of Pres. Carter’s proclamation reads:
“Grandparents are our continuing tie to the near-past, to the events and beliefs and experiences that so strongly affect our lives and the world around us. Whether they are our own or surrogate grandparents who fill some of the gaps in our mobile society, our senior generation also provides our society a link to our national heritage and traditions.”
And with that official proclamation, Grandparents Day has become not just a national holiday in the United States but a special secular holiday that’s continuously being recognized and celebrated by nations across the world.
In 2004, Johnny Prilly’s A Song For Grandma and Grandpa was declared by the National Grandparents Day Council of Chula Vista, CA as the official song for Grandparents Day. Prilly was given an award of recognition by the council for his composition.
The Legacy Project
Organizations such as The Legacy Project have expanded the significance and reasons why Grandparents Day should be celebrated, especially in schools. The organization’s goals and benefits include:
1. Provide children the opportunity to show their appreciation and love for their grandparents and other significant elderly people in their lives.
2. Provide grandparents the opportunity to show how much they love and care for their grandchildren as well as other kids in the community.
3. Create a memorable experience for both children and grandparents alike.
4. Give honor to elderly people and validate their roles as grandparents and mentors. This is to make grandparents aware that they are making a difference in the lives of younger generations.
5. Provide elderly people the opportunity to share their life experiences with their grandchildren and other kids as a means to give guidance and a sense of legacy to the younger generations.
6. Create awareness among parents and teachers about the strengths of elderly people to break the stereotypes about aging and getting old.
7. Foster and support long-term, mutually supportive, and caring intergenerational relationships among the elderly and younger generations.
8. Give grandparents a glimpse of the current educational system and the opportunity to meet their grandchildren’s teachers.
9. Promote community relations and encourage family involvement in schools because it helps create a better learning environment for children — making them do well in school.
10. Expose schoolchildren to new ideas from a historical, life course, and multigenerational perspective.
11. Build a community that is cognizant of the importance of history in planning and working for the future.
Does Anyone Celebrate Grandparents Day?
Though the dates vary by country, Grandparents Day is celebrated in the following countries:
- Australia (first Sunday of October)
- Canada (second Sunday in September but was discontinued in 2014)
- Estonia (second Sunday in September)
- France (first Sunday in March)
- Germany (second Sunday in October)
- Hong Kong (second Sunday in October)
- Italy (October 2nd)
- Mexico (August 28th)
- Netherlands (June 4th)
- Pakistan (second Sunday in October)
- Poland (Grandma’s Day on January 21, Grandpa’s Day on January 22)
- Singapore (fourth Sunday in November)
- South Sudan (second Sunday in November)
- Spain (July 26th)
- Taiwan (last Sunday in August)
- United Kingdom (first Sunday in October)
- United States (first Sunday after Labor Day)
4 Awesome Ways To Celebrate Grandparents Day
Here’s another fact: In the United States, the official flower for Grandparents Day is the forget-me-not. The flower was adopted by the National Grandparents Day Council on April 20, 1999. Besides giving grandparents forget-me-nots for Grandparents Day, there are several ways to honor them and show them how special they are to their families, communities, and the world at large.
1. Host A Family Gathering
Spend some quality time with your grandparents by preparing a special meal or dinner for them. Invite family members (especially their grandkids) over for some bonding and quality time with grandma and grandpa. It might be a good opportunity to make your grandma or grandpa’s favorite food (if their diet permits) or at least indulge them with their favorite dessert.
Plan some activities during the gathering. Bring out those old photo albums, spark up a conversation about family stories, make time for board games or other children’s games to give your grandparents the opportunity to interact with the kids. Your grandparents will surely love and appreciate the effort.
2. Go To Places Which Host Grandparents Day Celebrations
If you don’t have time to prepare a small gathering, bringing your grandparents and the whole family to places which host celebrations for Grandparents Day should be the next best thing. Most museums and national parks host Grandparents Day programs and activities, so that can be a good venue for some family bonding.
3. Video Chat
Distance shouldn’t be a deterrent when it comes to celebrating Grandparents Day. It’s understandable if your grandparents are unable to travel or if family members can’t get to their grandparents’ location (school starts in September, so travel can be a difficult option for both sides).
Technology has made it a lot easier to reach out, though, so do a video chat via Skype or Facetime and let your family members and kids engage in long conversations with the grandparents. You can even plan some fun activities around the video chat.
4. Participate In Organized Grandparents Day Events
As part of their Across Generations program, The Legacy Project is the most comprehensive resource when it comes to ideas and activities for Grandparents Day.
Activities such as Then & Now fill-in sheets, family tree charts, fill-in-the-blanks life story booklets, generations scrapbook, storytelling ideas, and greatest grandparents certificates are some ideas covered in The Legacy Project’s Grandparents Day Planning & Activity Guide. These are ideas that they have compiled from a decade of doing intergenerational work with programs and schools across America.
By the year 2030, 1 in every 5 Americans will be over 65 years of age. That means there will be more elderly people than children under age five; and more grandparents!
Currently, 7.1 million grandparents live with their grandchildren. That is about 10 percent of the children’s population in the United States. 2.7 million of these grandparents are acting as primary caregivers for their grandchildren, with 600,000 living below the poverty level. It’s also a fact that 700,000 grandparents who care for their grandchildren are disabled.
Why are these statistics so important? Because they reflect the important role of grandparents to society as well as the significance of intergenerational connections between young and old.
While Grandparents Day is meant to honor our grandparents, it also makes us realize a bigger message: that all of us will become elderly one day, and that each of us have our own life experience to tell. These life experiences are a vital part of our history and our legacy. They will also become a source of wisdom and inspiration for future generations who have yet to create their own.
It doesn’t really matter how you spend Grandparents Day. What is important is that you made time to celebrate and honor your elderly family members, the lives they lived, and the wisdom that they can still impart.