By Wally Pearce, Winters Elder Day Council
Special to the Express
Grandparents can get away with a little spoiling, which gives them a special place in a child’s heart. They also tell great stories. Grandparents are the bearers of family history. They pass on family traditions and regale grandchildren about how life use to be.
On Sunday, Sept. 12, Grandparents Day will be celebrated nationally. Grandparents Day, also known as National Grandparents Day — is a holiday that’s celebrated the first Sunday after Labor Day. It’s identified to celebrate both maternal and paternal grandparents.
The origins of this national U.S. holiday start in 1969 with an unsuccessful initial attempt by Marian McQuade, who wrote a letter to President Nixon. From there, most of the credit also goes to McQuade, of West Virginia, who was a champion for the value of grandparents and older adults, and who had plenty of experience as a grandmother. When McQuade passed away in 2008, she had 15 children, 43 grandchildren, 10 great-grandchildren and one great-great grandchild.
In 1970, McQuade began promoting the idea of a holiday for grandparents and found success first in her home state, where grandparents were honored in 1973. After that, it took her six more years of tireless dedication to persuade leaders in Washington, D.C., to bring the entire nation on board. On Sept. 10, 1979, President Jimmy Carter issued Proclamation 4680.
However, Grandparent’s Day wasn’t recognized as a holiday on a state level until March 27, 1973, when it became recognized by West Virginia. Thanks to President Carter and Senators Robert Byrd and Jennings Randolph introducing official legislation into the United States Senate, it officially became a national holiday in 1978.
The statue making Grandparents Day a holiday lists the three purposes of this holiday:
1. To commemorate and pay respect to grandparents.
2. To recognize the importance that older people have on the lives of the young.
3. To give our grandparents the opportunity to show our love and support for their children’s children.
Today, the entire nation wholeheartedly supports Grandparents’ Day because grandkids matter. It’s regrettable however, that the vital influence of grandmas and grandpas — including surrogate and spiritual grandparents — is far too often minimized or even overlooked as not important.
But research makes it clear that grandchildren thrive when grandparents are proactive in supporting and developing a relationship with their grandchildren, and grandparents thrive when they are actively involved in their grandchildren’s lives. Furthermore, when grandparents are involved in preparing their heirs with regard to perpetuating their values and morals, including a strong work ethic, the success of those prepared increase significantly.
Nanas and Papas deserve to be recognized for all they contribute to their grandchildren. Grandparents Day can be celebrated in a variety of ways. Some people have a party for their grandparents, commemorating their life and achievements. Other people merely give their grandparents a gift. For others, the only ceremony given to grandparents is to present them with an enjoyable cake and a big hug.
A tradition that was prominently featured when this holiday was first created, was the presentation of the forget-me-not flowers to one’s grandparents. It was particularly important to present this flower to grandparents who were living in nursing homes, or to place them on their graves if they were deceased. However, it can also be given to those who are still alive.
Whatever way is chosen, it’s important to honor our grandparents, great grandparents, — including surrogate and spiritual grandparents — with proper recognition. After all, without them, we wouldn’t be here.
Please join with the Winters Elder Day Council this year and take this opportunity to celebrate our Grandparents on Sunday, Sept. 12.