Grandparents bestow upon their grandchildren
The strength and wisdom that time
And experience have given them.
Grandchildren bless their Grandparents
With a youthful vitality and innocence
That help them stay young at heart forever.
Together they create a chain of love
Linking the past with the future.
The chain may lengthen,
But it will never part…
History of the Holiday
The first recorded celebration of grandparents, specifically Grandmother’s Day, was in Poland in 1965. Some countries celebrate separate days for each, while other countries, like the U.S. have one day that celebrates both. In the United States, it began with a homemaker and mother of 15 children in West Virginia named Marian Lucille Herndon McQuade. Her efforts to establish a special day to honor grandparents was a grassroots effort, but her enthusiasm for the cause caught the attention of local businesses, churches, and civic groups and eventually of lawmakers. Governor Arch Moore proclaimed this holiday in West Virginia in 1973.
The movement to make Grandparents Day a national holiday began that same year, when Senator Randolph Jenkins, a West Virginia Democrat, introduced a resolution making the request to the Senate. Sadly, the resolution never made it to a vote, having died in committee, but within three years 43 states had proclaimed their own Grandparents Day holidays.
So, in February of ’77, Randolph proposed a joint resolution with several other senators. This time around the legislation passed Congress. On August 3, 1978, President Jimmy Carter signed the proclamation designating the first Sunday of September after Labor Day as National Grandparents Day. The statute also states the purpose of the holiday is “to honor grandparents, to give grandparents an opportunity to show love for their children’s children, and to help children become aware of strength, information, and guidance older people can offer.”[i]
The forget-me-not, which is the flower that symbolizes National Grandparents Day, is a much-loved plant with tiny blue flowers. Fittingly, the flower is a sign of remembrance and enduring love; Henry David Thoreau described it as “one of the most interesting minute flowers. It is more beautiful for being small and unpretending; even flowers must be modest.”[ii] There is even an official Grandparents Day song. “A Song for Grandma and Grandpa” was recorded by Johnny Prill from Bad Axe, Michigan, who has posted a version of the song with the lyrics on his YouTube channel.
Respecting Our Elders
Sunday, September 13th marked Grandparents Day this year. The day was born out of a love and respect of elders, according to an interview McQuade gave in 1995. The day is celebrated by millions “who take the opportunity to honor their parents and grandparents, to visit other older friends and relatives, and to recognize the wisdom, strength, and lasting contributions of seniors everywhere.”[iii]
Whether they realize it or not, our grandparents are repositories of history. Even if they are not great historical figures, which many of them may not be, they have stories and tales that can give insight into events that have happened in the world during their lifetimes. As a child, my grandfather could capture my attention with tales about his time in the Navy during World War II. Of course, my grandmother could as well, with her stories about growing up the fourth of seven children in rural West Virginia.
This day is special not only to family, but because of the focus on realizing that the older adults in our lives can have a great impact on the lives of children. Grandparents or not, elders still have a lot to give in terms of knowledge, experience, and love.
In his Presidential Proclamation of National Grandparents Day in 2014, Barack Obama stated that “[o]n National Grandparents Day, we honor the anchors of our families and recognize the immeasurable ways they enrich our lives … Today, we pay tribute to our grandparents and all the older Americans who have reached across generations and played an important role in our lives.” [iv] The suggestion here is accurate; our elders enrich our lives, whether they are our grandparents, parents, great aunts and uncles, or just older members of our community.
Our School’s Family Celebration
This year, thanks to your enthusiastic participation, our Grandparents Day celebration was a huge success. Thank you to all the grandparents and families that joined us to celebrate this special relationship. We even snapped some pictures and put them in an album on the website. Take a look!
[i] National Grandparents Day .com. “History.”
[ii] Henry David Thoreau. The Writings of Henry David Thoreau. (1884)
[iii] Sharon O’Brien. “All About Grandparents Day: The History and Origin of Grandparents Day.” Senior Living About.com.
[iv] Barack Obama. “Presidential Proclamation — National Grandparents Day 2014.” The White House.