National Grandparents Day - observed first Sunday after Labor Day
Grandparents Day is a special day set aside to honor and show our appreciation and love for our parent's parents. Our grandparents provide an anchor to our heritage, traditions, and recent past. They hold a wealth of knowledge, experiences, love and wisdom that is often taken for granted. A day focused around the millions of grandparents across the nation gives us all a chance, outside our daily routines, to show our gratitude for our elders.
Grandparents Day began in 1970, when a housewife from West Virginia, Marian McQuade, started a campaign to create a special day just for grandparents. She was inspired to create this day for many reasons, one being her fond memories as a child of spending time with her Grandmother. She recalls, "After working all day on the farm, Grandma would walk off to visit elderly people of the community. Often I would tag along. I never forgot talking with those delightful people. That's where my love and respect for oldsters started."
Mrs. McQuade was very active in her community, always looking for a way to help others. She was a member of the Fayette County Historical Society, vice-chairman of the West Virginia Commission on Aging, president of the Vocational Rehabilitation Foundation and was the delegate to the White House Conference on Aging. In 1956, she assisted in organizing a "Past 80" party for the senior citizens of her community. There was a great response to this effort, and it has been an annual tradition for over 50 years.
While organizing this event, Mrs. McQuade contacted nursing homes and visited with the elderly. McQuade was deeply saddened to witness the chronic loneliness experienced by many of the patients. It was through her great concern and compassion for the elderly that prompted the observation, "They load these people up with gifts at Christmas, but they leave them alone the other 364 days of the years. I wanted there to be another day to visit." With that motivation, she spent 5 years lobbying and petitioning her local officials and finally she gained a proclamation from Governor Arch Moore declaring May 27th, 1973, as Grandparents Day in the state of West Virginia.
Earning a state holiday was certainly a great success for her campaign, but being the strong-willed person she was, it was not enough. She wanted to gain national recognition for Grandparents Day, so that people across the U.S. would have a special day to celebrate their grandparents. Through a lot of hard work, she finally got a phone call from the White House in 1978, informing her that President Jimmy Carter signed into public law a proclamation designating the Sunday after Labor Day as National Grandparents Day; September was selected to signify the "autumn" years of life. President Carter stated the purpose of the day is "...to honor grandparents, to give grandparents the opportunity to show love for their children's children, and to help children become aware of strength, information and guidance older people can offer." The first nation-wide observance took place in 1979 and its popularity continues to grow. The proclamation, in part, reads:
"As we seek to strengthen the enduring values of the family, it is appropriate that we honor our grandparents.
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.
We all know grandparents whose values transcend passing fads and pressures, and who possess the wisdom of distilled pain and joy. Because they are usually free to love and guide and befriend the young without having to take daily responsibility for them, they can often reach out past pride and fear of failure and close the space between generations."
There is a common misconception about Grandparents Day that implies it was created as another greeting card holiday or that it originated as a florists' holiday, in order to promote consumer spending. This couldn't be farther from the true intention behind the day. Ms. McQuade even turned down an offer from Hallmark, the largest greeting card manufacturer in the U.S., which would have provided her royalty revenues from the sales of cards made for Grandparents Day. In fact, Mr. & Mrs. McQuade would pay their own Grandparents Day expenses, including the printing and postage costs of information packets sent out to people inquiring about the observance. Her packets include a brief history of the day, a personal letter and activity ideas, as well as a family tree chart - all of this, free of charge. In conjunction with Grandparents Day, McQuade started a nursing home visitation program called "Forget-Me-Not", which brings friendly visits to nursing home patients year round. The forget-me-not flower has been the symbol of Grandparents Day ever since. The observance of Grandparents Day truly became her own as she had 15 of her own children, who then blessed her with 43 grandchildren, over 10 great grandchildren and 1 great-great grandchild. Sadly, Mrs. McQuade passed away in 2008. In her honor, some of her children and grandchildren have continued her efforts to promote and celebrate Grandparents Day.
Through these efforts, Grandparents Day has risen in recognition, and has been adopted by other countries. Canada observes the day on the second Sunday of September, while in Italy it is celebrated on October 2nd. In the United Kingdom, Grandparents Day is celebrated on the first Sunday of October.
Grandparents Day celebrations can take many forms; a few suggestions from Mrs. McQuade include dinners, ice cream socials, dances and sing-alongs, quilting and craft projects and of course visits to nursing home patients. However, regardless of the activities, the main focus of this special day is to connect the generations by spending some quality time with our elders, whether they are our own or surrogate grandparents.
Click here to read some great quotes such as:
"The great secret that all old people share is that you really haven't changed in seventy or eighty years. Your body changes, but you don't change at all. And that, of course, causes great confusion."
"Everyone needs to have access both to grandparents and grandchildren in order to be a full human being"
"To become a grandparent is to enjoy one of the few pleasures in life for which the consequences have already been paid. "