The Origins of Grandparents Day

The roots of Grandparents Day go back to 1956 and a West Virginia mother named Marian McQuade. While helping to organize a community celebration for those over 80, she became aware of the many nursing home residents who were forgotten by their families. She wanted a holiday to bring attention to these forgotten individuals and to honor all grandparents. In 1973 West Virginia became the first state to have such a day.


McQuade and others then shifted their efforts to the national level, achieving success in 1978. Grandparents Day is a real national holiday or observance, celebrated each year on the first Sunday after Labor Day, although it is not classified as a federal holiday.



Mrs. McQuade wanted Grandparents Day to be a family day. She envisioned families enjoying small, private gatherings, perhaps even a family reunion, or participating in community events.

On a societal level, National Grandparents Day gives us a chance to publicly affirm the identity and importance of grandparents, that they do play a vital role in families. It is also a day of giving – giving of self; sharing hopes, dreams, and values; and setting an example and advocating for future generations. Generations United in Washington, DC encourages all ages to engage in intergenerational civic engagement for the entire week following National Grandparents Day.


There are three purposes for National Grandparents Day:

1. To honor grandparents.
2. To give grandparents an opportunity to show love for their children’s children.
3. To help children become aware of the strength, information and guidance older people can offer.


How to Celebrate Grandparents Day

Today many families celebrate Grandparents Day with family get-togethers. These need not be elaborate. A simple meal and time to visit will please most grandparents. Grandparents Day is also a great time to share some family stories or look at old pictures. Board games, card games, and puzzles are fun low-key amusements. If the family would like an outing, a few venues, mainly museums, host annual Grandparents Day celebrations.

It is true that some families celebrate by giving gifts to grandparents. It is equally in keeping with the spirit of the holiday for grandparents to give gifts to their grandchildren, especially gifts that celebrate family traditions.

Maybe the main reason that Grandparents Day has escaped commercial exploitation is holiday burnout. Maybe time-poor parents simply don’t have room on their calendars and in their brains for another holiday. If that is the case, grandparents still shouldn’t let the occasion go by unnoticed. Most of the younger generation will be happy to participate if they don’t have to plan. Remember that one of the purposes of the holiday is to give grandparents a chance to show their love for their grandchildren.

If it doesn’t work out for you to see your grandchildren, Grandparents Day is a great excuse for you to phone them, text them, FaceTime or Skype with them, or even write them an old-fashioned letter.
Of course, you could also send them a card.


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