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Grandparents' Day

You probably know that Mother's Day is in May and Father's Day is in June, but do you know when Grandparents' Day is? Although it is lesser known than the national holidays we celebrate in honor of our parents, Grandparents' Day is just as important. Celebrated on the first Sunday after Labor Day, it has traditionally been used to honor both grandparents and their relationships with their grandchildren.

Grandparents' Day was the brainchild of Marian McQuade, a housewife and proud parent of 15 children living in West Virginia, whose work with senior citizens dates back to 1956. Since then, she has dedicated her life to advocating for senior citizens, having served as President of the Vocational Rehabilitation Foundation, Vice President of the West Virginia Health Systems Agency, and Co-chairman for the Bi-Centennial Centenarian Search for the West Virginia Commission on Aging. It was in 1970 that McQuade initiated a campaign to set aside a special day in honor of grandparents.

Thanks in large part to the efforts of civic, business, church and political leaders in West Virginia, the first Grandparents' Day was proclaimed in 1973 by Governor Arch Moore. It was during the same year that Senator Jennings Randolph (D-WV) introduced a Grandparents' Day resolution in the United States Senate. To gather support for this resolution, McQuade and her team contacted the media and members of government in each state and tirelessly sent letters to churches, businesses and an array of national organizations whose members advocate for senior citizens.

All their hard work finally paid off in 1978. Five years after its inception in West Virginia, Congress passed legislation proclaiming the first Sunday after Labor Day as National Grandparents' Day. September was chosen for the holiday to signify the "autumn years" of life and the proclamation was signed by President Jimmy Carter. According to the statutes preamble, the purpose of Grandparents' Day 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."

Over the past 25 years, Grandparents' Day has grown largely in popularity. The holiday even has an official song called "A Song for Grandma and Grandpa," by Johnny Prill. Greeting cards and other more traditional holiday activities have begun to take hold of Grandparents' Day, as well.

There are many ways Grandparents' Day can be celebrated. Schools, churches and senior organizations honor grandparents with special events, but above all, it is a day for family. Some families prefer small gatherings while others like to celebrate with large reunions. Board games and story-telling are good ways to enhance interaction between generations, allowing grandparents to share stories of their past and enlighten the younger people about "the old days." It can also be a day to discover your roots and put forth efforts to maintain a strong sense of family background. Oftentimes, grandparents are the only ones who have answers to questions about family histories. As the official Web site of Grandparents' Day states, "When this information is passed down to the grandchildren, everyone can be assured of this heritage being preserved."

Overall, Grandparents' Day signifies a spirit of love and respect for our elders. It is important, as well, to remember senior citizens living in nursing homes who have no families or are unable to be with their families, even on holidays. Grandparents' Day is the perfect opportunity to include these people in mainstream activities though cards, community projects and visitation. Churches, schools and senior organizations in your community may even help children adopt foster grandparents, as so many elderly people would love such an opportunity.



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