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September 7, 2010 > Celebrating grandparents

Celebrating grandparents

By Julie Grabowski

"What children need most are the essentials that grandparents provide in abundance. They give unconditional love, kindness, patience, humor, comfort, lessons in life. And, most importantly, cookies." -Rudolph Giuliani


September 12 might not receive immediate recognition as a special day, but the estimated 70 to 80 million grandparents in the U.S. might hope to alert people otherwise. National Grandparents Day has been part of the country's calendar for over 30 years as a call to celebrate and honor the wisdom, heritage, and unmatchable presence of seniors in our lives.

While Hermine Beckett Hanna and Michael Goldgar have each been viewed as the first champions for recognition of grandparents, the idea arose possibly beginning as early as 1961. Marian McQuade of Oak Hill, West Virginia is credited as the founder of Grandparents Day. She had a long history of working with seniors and was devoted to educating youth about the importance of the older generation and their contributions to society. In 1970 McQuade began a campaign to secure a special day in honor of grandparents.

Senator Jennings Randolph was an enthusiastic supporter of the idea, and introduced a resolution to the U.S. Senate in 1973 to institute Grandparents Day as a national holiday. The resolution died in the committee, spurring McQuade and her supporters to petition the senators, congressmen, and governors of all states to install their own Grandparents Day. West Virginia was the first to celebrate the holiday in 1973, and in three years McQuade had proclamations from 43 states.

In February 1977, congress passed legislation deeming the first Sunday after Labor Day to be celebrated as Grandparents Day. The month of September was chosen to signify the "autumn years" of life. The proclamation was signed by President Jimmy Carter on August 3, 1978, with the day's purpose claimed as being "...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."

In 2004 the National Grandparents Day Council in Chula Vista, California announced Johnny Prill's "A Song for Grandma and Grandpa" as the day's official song, whose lyrics reflect the importance and impact of spending time together and making memories. Forget-me-nots are recognized as the official flower of Grandparents Day.

Grandparents are celebrated throughout the world with their own special days, including the countries of Poland, France, Estonia, Portugal, Turkey, and Azerbaijan. The United Kingdom established their Grandparents Day in 1990, followed by Canada in 1995 and Italy in 2005.

But the day extends beyond grand parenthood to illuminate the needs and living situations of seniors, encouraging awareness, compassion, and action. As McQuade encouraged, everyone can "adopt" a grandparent, and foster that relationship for a lifetime.

Grandparents can be honored in endless ways, from a phone call, cards and letters, or lunch date to a special gift, family reunion, or time reminiscing through stories and pictures. The main goal remains the same: to make the seniors in our lives aware of their importance and impact, and to show care and respect for them throughout their lives, even without the urging of a scheduled holiday.

"A child needs a grandparent, anybody's grandparent, to grow a little more securely into an unfamiliar world." -Charles and Ann Morse

"If nothing is going well, call your grandmother." -Italian proverb

"Our grandchildren accept us for ourselves, without rebuke or effort to change us, as no one in our entire lives has ever done, not our parents, siblings, spouses, friends-and hardly even our own grown children." -Ruth Goode

"Grandparents are there to help the child get into mischief they haven't thought of yet." -Gene Perret

"Grandma's are moms with lots of frosting." -Author unknown

"Nobody can do for little children what grandparents do. Grandparents sort of sprinkle stardust over the lives of little children." -Alex Haley

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