Is Grandparents Day a Real Holiday?

Celebration Due to a West Virginia Mother

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Marian McQuade campaigned tirelessly for Grandparents Day. Photo © National Grandparents Day Council

Many people are confused about the holiday known as Grandparents Day. Is it a real holiday? That's the question I hear most often.

It's true that Grandparents Day was not on the calendar when we were growing up. Why is in on the calendar now, and is it an official holiday?

The Truth About Grandparents Day

Grandparents Day is a holiday created by federal proclamation in 1978. It was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Jimmy Carter.

It is a "real" holiday. It is not, however, one of the federal holidays for which government workers receive a day off. It is celebrated each year on the first Sunday after Labor Day, so it falls between September 7 and 13.

Marian McQuade, a West Virginia mother of 15, began a campaign for Grandparents Day in 1970. Three years later, her home state created the first Grandparents Day in the nation. The movement for a national holiday stalled, however. McQuade and her supporters rallied the media and urged organizations for older Americans to support the cause. They finally succeeded eight years later.

Only a few other countries have official grandparents day holidays.

What Grandparents Day Is Not

Many Americans are suspicious of new holidays, imagining that there is a commercial motive behind them. That is not true of Grandparents Day. It was not designed as a gift grab for grandparents.

Instead, the holiday is designed as a two-way experience, honoring both grandparents and grandchildren.

According to the National Grandparents Day Council, the holiday is intended to make children aware of "the strength, information and guidance older people can offer." In addition, it is meant to give grandparents an opportunity to show love for their children’s children. Although many see it as a day to give gifts to grandparents, it is appropriate for grandparents to give gifts to grandchildren on Grandparents Day, especially if they are gifts that honor family traditions.

Still skeptical? I have five good reasons for celebrating Grandparents Day, as well as a listing of annual events that I update each year as soon as the information becomes available.

McQuade's Vision

McQuade was something of an iconoclast, and her vision for Grandparents Day was decidedly noncommercial in nature. One thing she wished to accomplish was to gain attention for nursing homes residents. For years she and her husband promoted Grandparents Day at their own expense. When Hallmark wanted to create a line of cards for Grandparents Day, the company offered a royalty to McQuade. She refused the royalty.

McQuade died in 2008. When she died, she had 43 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren.

For dates for Grandparents Day, see FAQ: When is Grandparents Day? You can also learn more about the purpose of Grandparents Day.