Updated: Sep 5, 2019
Believe it or not, National Grandparents Day is an official US holiday; it’s also celebrated in many other countries--France, Mexico, and Great Britain among them.
Since August 3, 1978, when then President Jimmy Carter signed the bill into law, families across the United States have been celebrating National Grandparents Day on the first Sunday after Labor Day, this year Sunday, September 8, 2019.
The preamble to the bill Congress enacted states that the holiday’s purpose 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.” My kind of holiday!
The holiday has an official flower (the Forget-me-Not) and an official song (“A Song for Grandma and Grandpa”) written by Johnny Prill, the award-winning songwriter who also wrote “Proud to Be an American.”
Yet, despite its official status, Grandparents Day remains, for the most part, under-celebrated. Statistics on the number of families that celebrate this holiday simply don’t exist, which suggests that it's not high on anyone's “must celebrate” list. To be honest, I only learned about Grandparents Day recently, and all of the grandparents I asked about it learned about it from me.
Take a look at greeting card sales and you'll get the picture. According to the Greeting Card Association, 6.5 billion greeting cards were sold in the United States in 2018; of those, only 4 million cards were for Grandparents Day. Sounds like a lot, but 4 million is far below the number sold for other family holidays, for example, Mother’s Day (141 million) and Father’s Day (93 million).
Why don’t more Americans celebrate a national holiday that honors grandparents? I think it's one of those "no one knows about it" holidays, simple as that. Take my family, for example. I’m pretty sure that my children would do something for Grandparents Day with my husband and me…if they knew about it. And probably most other grandparents feel the same way. Bottom line: National Grandparents Day will remain an under-celebrated holiday until parents learn it exists.
I wrote this post because I think National Grandparents Day sounds like a wonderful holiday, a perfect opportunity for families to celebrate the 70+ million American grandparents and the positive difference they make in their grandchildren's lives.
I think too that grandparents can help raise awareness about this official holiday to honor grandparents. Now that we have email and smart phones, we can spread the word in a flash. If every grandparent who reads this post emails 10 of their grandparent friends, tells them about National Grandparents Day (for the holiday's history, check out The Legacy Project) and asks them to keep the chain going by emailing 10 of their grandparent friends, more grandparents will receive that call or card they so rightly deserve on September 8. We just need to play it forward.
And President Trump should help us too. The bill that created National Grandparents Day contains a request that the President issue a proclamation annually to “call on people, groups and organizations to observe the day with appropriate ceremonies and activities.”
I checked the Federal Records Office website, which lists all Presidential Proclamations since President Clinton, and only President Obama has issued a proclamation about the importance of National Grandparents Day. So, in addition to emails to our grandparent friends, we can all urge the President to send greetings on September 8 to all American grandparents via Twitter (you can email him at the White House or, Tweet him at @realDonaldTrump).
Grandparents represent a family’s ties to the past: its history, values and traditions. They also provide assistance to their families with daycare, babysitting, and financial support. And, more recently, grandparents are relinquishing their roles as grandparents to become their grandchildren's parents (grandfamilies) because their grown children can’t (2.7 million in 2014).
Grandparents really deserve a National Grandparents Day! Go ahead: mark your calendar, send your emails, and make sure you contact your grandchildren on September 8 to let them know how much you love them…and, perhaps next year, they’ll be contacting you to wish you a Happy Grandparents Day. Keep the chain going!
Happy Grandparents Day!