Grandparents Day is always celebrated on the first Sunday after Labor Day. This year, that’s Sunday, September 12! While we honor our grandparents every day, take an extra moment to appreciate all the joy and wisdom that grandparents bring to our lives.
WHY DO WE CELEBRATE GRANDPARENTS DAY?
The History of Grandparents Day
Marian McQuade hoped to establish a national day that would honor grandparents, and in 1970 she began a campaign to do so. McQuade raised awareness about senior citizens throughout the 1970s. In 1978, President Jimmy Carter declared the first Sunday after Labor Day to be National Grandparents Day. Each year, the president issues a proclamation to keep the tradition going.
Grandparents Day has both an official flower and song. Both were chosen by the National Grandparents Day Council.
- The official flower is the forget-me-not.
- The official song is Johnny Prill’s “A Song for Grandma and Grandpa.”
GRANDPARENTS DAY DATES
Grandparents Day is celebrated on the first Sunday after Labor Day (the first Monday in September).
|2021||Sunday, September 12|
|2022||Sunday, September 11|
|2023||Sunday, September 10|
|2024||Sunday, September 8|
GRANDPARENTS DAY ACTIVITIES AND GIFTS
Most grandparents don’t care what activity they do—they just want to spend time with their grandchildren.
If you have a grandparent, ask them to show you one of their favorite hobbies. Let your grandparents teach you a skill, like how to fish. Or, perhaps they enjoy garden walks or nature hikes. If your grandparent would prefer a calm day, ask them to show you their favorite classic movie.
Or, perhaps it would be fun to make arts and crafts together. We have a bunch of seasonal crafts to try from making hollyhock flower dolls to an autumn nut wreath.
Maybe you can bring them some treats, like Grandpa’s Banana Bread or Grandmother’s Blueberry Cake, both made by talented grandparents. Or, try making one of the dishes that your grandparents usually make for you.
If your grandparent does not live nearby, give them a phone call and make them a card! Even if the card doesn’t arrive by Grandparents Day, they’ll always appreciate a handwritten card which shows your thoughtfulness. Here are a few simple tips on how to write a proper thank you note (We’ll bet your grandparents know this!). You can even make a homemade card (with a potato!).
No matter what, the best Grandparents Day activity involves you and your grandparents together, celebrating your family and each other.
HAPPY GRANDPARENTS DAY!
On Grandparents Day, it really is the thought that counts—just make sure your grandparents know that you’re thinking of them.
What’s your favorite way to celebrate Grandparents Day? Let us know below, and happy Grandparents Day!
Although it is not classified as a federal holiday, Grandparents Day is a national holiday or observance, celebrated each year on the first Sunday after Labor Day. Many people assume that Grandparents Day resulted from lobbying by florists, greeting card companies, and similar businesses. This idea could not be farther from the truth.
Grandparents Day is a day for celebrating the connections between the generations, and its origin was decidedly noncommercial. The holiday has remained fairly true to its roots. A few ways to celebrate include meals or shared activities like playing cards, going for a walk, or just visiting over a cup of tea.
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 individuals and to honor all grandparents. In 1973, West Virginia became the first state to have such a day.
Although it might seem that the name of this day should be Grandparents’ Day, it is not. Unlike Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, Grandparents Day does not use an apostrophe.
McQuade and other supporters of the holiday then shifted their efforts to the national level, achieving success in 1978. Today, Grandparents Day is celebrated annually in homes, retirement and nursing home facilities, and communities across the United States. Each year, the observance is proclaimed by the president as well.
The purpose of the holiday, as stated in the preamble to the statute, is “to honor grandparents, to give grandparents an opportunity to show love for their children’s children, and to help children become aware of the strength, information, and guidance older people can offer.”
Florists and greeting card companies were overjoyed by the creation of the holiday but it hasn’t panned out as a big gift- or card-giving holiday. Hallmark predicted that by 1983 Grandparents Day would be the sixth biggest holiday for greeting card sales.
However, according to the Greeting Card Association, Grandparents Day isn’t listed on the most popular occasions for greeting card sales, which is topped by Christmas, Birthdays, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, graduation, Easter, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and even St. Patrick’s Day.1 In the floral industry, Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day, and Christmas continue to be the major sales generators. That probably would have made McQuade very happy.
According to the website of the National Grandparents Day Council, McQuade refused all royalties and donations associated with her efforts and spurned overtures from Hallmark.
That said, 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.
How to Celebrate
Today, many families celebrate Grandparents Day with family get-togethers. These need not be elaborate, the key is to choose activities that the grandparent enjoys and foster intergenerational connection.
Sharing a simple meal and time to visit will please most grandparents. Playing board games, card games, and puzzles are fun low-key amusements. Grandparents Day is also a great time to share some family stories or look at old pictures. If the family would like an outing, a few venues (mainly museums) host annual Grandparents Day celebrations.
Maybe the main reason that Grandparents Day has escaped commercial exploitation is holiday burnout. 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, Skype, or Zoom with them, or even write them an old-fashioned letter or have your children draw them some pictures. Of course, you could also send them a card—a simple surprise in the mailbox is an easy, personal way to make a grandparent’s Grandparents Day special.
Have you ever stopped to think how important grandparents are? Our children’s grandparents can be the most wonderful resource, both to us as parents, and to our kids. Sometimes in all the hurly-burly of busy lives we can forget this fact. That’s why I like the idea of Grandparents Day. Many countries have this special day, including France, Australia, Germany, and Hong Kong. In the United States, it’s celebrated the first Sunday in September after Labor Day. The holiday is a great time to remind ourselves of what grandparents mean to us, and to celebrate with them.
Grandparents and Grandkids Have a Special Relationship
Grandmas and grandpas love to hear about our kids’ successes and milestones. Whether this event is as simple as a first word, first tooth, or twentieth gold star at school, you can rely on grandparents to take an interest. I love to encourage kids to contact their grandparents and let them know about such exciting events. It’s an excellent learning experience for children to visit, phone, write a letter, Skype, or record a video to send to Grandpa/Grandma. For grandparents who are far away, it helps them feel closer too.
Another thing I’ve noticed about grandparents is that they’re great at being a cheer squad. They think our kids are wonderful too, and adore to enter into children’s pride in their accomplishments. Grandparents excel at reading books aloud to kids. Thanks to modern technology, they can do this even if they are far away. Turn about is only fair! Kids who read aloud to grandparents are assured of an appreciative audience.
Thanking grandparents for their gifts and time is just good manners. But Grandparents Day might be a good time to sit down with kids and discuss how important and loved their grandparents are. Reflecting for a few moments on shared experiences and fun might be all the inspiration your kids need to let their grandparents know how they feel.
Your kids might choose to write a poem, a list, or a song. They might paint a portrait or create a gift. Whatever they do, I can guarantee it will be so much appreciated by Grandpa and Grandma.
Some schools have a special Grandparents Day event. This allows grandparents to visit classrooms and see their grandkids in this special environment. At my school we always combined this day with a Book Fair. Turns out, grandparents love to encourage reading and are great book buyers. But best of all, we found both children and grandparents benefited from the opportunity to get to know each other better. We always encouraged kids whose grandparents couldn’t attend to “borrow” a surrogate for the day. Grandparents were invited to share memories of their own school days, and everyone enjoyed a barbecue lunch together.
One thing children may not be aware of is the important roles grandparent play as volunteers in our communities. Some grandparents look after children so their parents can go to work. Others put in hours working for charities and non-profit organizations. Some grandmas read stories to children in libraries; some grandpas teach youngsters how to use tools to make things. Nobody pays them for their time — they take on these tasks as a way to show they care and to give back to the community.
simple idea of supporting the elderly in nursing homes, and ended with a national holiday, Grandparents Day. Declared a national holiday by President Carter in 1978, it is celebrated every year on the first Sunday after Labor Day. September was chosen as it represents “the autumn years” of one’s life.
More than 56 million grandparents now reside in the United States. A full 5.7 million live with their grandchildren. For all families, Grandparents Day presents an opportunity to tap into the wisdom and heritage that older relatives provide—an especially rich resource for our children. McQuade’s goal was to create a day to honor grandparents and give them a chance to show their love for their grandchildren. She also hoped children would learn the value of their grandparent’s strength and guidance, and return that message of love. For children whose grandparents have passed away, they can be encouraged to offer their kindness to other elderly people, especially those who reside in nursing homes.
The ways to celebrate this holiday are limited only by one’s imagination. Try a few of these ideas, and maybe you’ll want to start a yearly tradition of your own.
- Invite grandparents over to play a favorite board game from their youth.
- Have the whole family cook a few of Grandma’s favorite recipes together. Of course, she will enjoy supervising and teaching!
- Take grandparents to visit the houses where they grew up, or some other memorable spots.
- Compile a playlist of songs from their youth, adding a few of your children’s favorite songs as well.
- Host a family reunion, inviting a few local relatives or dozens of distant relations.
- Create a book or poster titled, “Why We Love Grandpa.” Have the kids list their many reasons, and add colorful illustrations.
- Create a family tree together. Be sure to bring out the grandparents’ photographs, so that the kids can put a face with a name. It’s also a great time to jot names, dates and notes on the backs of the pictures.
- Ask the grandparent for a lesson on their favorite hobby. Your family can spend the day learning to knit with grandma, or fish with grandpa.
- Give the grandparent a homemade “coupon book” from the entire family. The coupons may include help with chores, places you’ll take them to visit, or activities you’ll plan to do together.
- Watch the grandparents’ favorite movie together as a family.
- Have your children write a story, featuring the grandparent as the main character, complete with illustrations.
- Create a set of placemats using old and new photos of the grandparent, along with their children and grandchildren.