20 September 2021

Grandparents’ Day: When is it and how to celebrate

Grandparents having breakfast with their grandchildren

It’s always great to be able to celebrate amazing grandparents, but did you know, there is a day dedicated to doing just that? A holiday slowly growing in popularity around the world, Grandparents’ Day is a day in which you can dedicate your time to showing the grandparents in your life just how special they are.

But when is Grandparents’ Day, when did it start and how can you celebrate it? Read on to find out.

When is Grandparents’ Day in the UK?

In the United Kingdom, Grandparents’ Day is celebrated on the first Sunday of October. Below you can find the dates Grandparents’ Day will fall on in the UK from 2021 to 2025.

  • 2021: 3rd October
  • 2022: 2nd October
  • 2023: 1st October
  • 2024: 6th October
  • 2025: 5th October 

Grandparents sat smiling with young grandchild

When did Grandparents’ Day start?

The story behind Grandparent’s Day is a sweet one. Russell Capper (aged 9 at the time) sent a letter to President Nixon in 1969 requesting a special day be set aside as ‘Grandparents’ Day’. Although Nixon did not fulfil this request, Marian McQuade was inspired and is credited with being the founder of National Grandparents’ Day as we know it today.

She felt that it was important to impart in the younger generation the importance of the seniors in their lives and the part in history they had played and, in 1973, she started urging states around the US to recognise Grandparents’ Day as a holiday. Within three years of reaching out to state senators, proclamations of Grandparent’s Day were received from forty-three states, the first being West Virginia.

It took until 1978 until it was officially recognised as a nationwide holiday. On the 3rd of August, President Jimmy Carter signed the proclamation which says the day is intended “to honour 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 the United States, Grandparent’s Day takes place on the first Sunday of September after Labor Day. As well as being a national holiday, the day was given the official flower of the forget-me-not, which isn’t actually in season during September so is rarely gifted on the day.

Grandparents’ Day was first introduced in the UK in 1990 by Age Concern. Since October 2008 it’s been celebrated on the first Sunday of October annually.

Grandparent making food with grandchildren

How to celebrate Grandparents’ Day

Spend quality time

Whether virtually or in real life, the most important thing that people can do today is to spend quality time with one another. For grandparents who live far away from their grandchildren or who may rely on home helps like curved stairlifts for mobility, arranging a virtual meeting might be the key. However, for those who are lucky enough to live close together, even if it’s just popping over for a cup of tea and a biscuit, making the effort goes a long way.

Tell stories and reminisce

A great way to spend the day, and one that falls in line with its original intention, is to spend it telling stories and reminiscing. For grandchildren, it can be so exciting to hear about their grandparents’ lives and using your time together on this day to share key memories from your life can be amazing. It also means you are passing down the story of you and your heritage to younger generations to carry on throughout their own lives. For an even better touch, try and record yourself telling the stories or write them down so they can be told forever. If your children’s grandparents are no longer around, this can also be a way you can connect them with their seniors by sharing old pictures and revealing your own memories.

Adventures in Nana Land give some suggestions on good starting points:

  • “Share a favourite memory from when you were their exact age
  • Show a special object and tell the story behind it. Or gather a whole box of heirlooms and let the grandchildren take them out one by one while you talk about those things.
  • Talk about the best piece of advice you’ve ever received and why.
  • Pull out a picture of your wedding day and talk about that day or the proposal.”

READ MORE: Best lessons to teach your grandchildren

Arrange a day out

The best part of Grandparents’ Day falling on a Sunday in the UK is that children will not be in school and able to spend the day with their grandparents. If there was ever a day to do some multigenerational bonding, it would be today so why not arrange a day out? It could be ticking off a bucket list item together or something simple and lowkey like a meal at a beloved restaurant nearby.

For those who have grandparents who were born in a different place to where they currently live, Rockland Parent suggests you “take a virtual visit to their homeland. “Whether they grew up in New York City or Japan, learn about the city or country’s culture, history, holidays, and more.” This is also great if the weather isn’t wonderful!

Cook a family recipe together

Food really brings people together and, for many families, there are dishes that have been passed down through generations and are loved by all. If this is the case for your family, why not decide to cook a family recipe together? This way you can enjoy bonding time, explain the significance of the dish to your grandchildren (perhaps it originates from your home country’s culture, or is something your mother would make every Sunday without fail).

If you choose to do this, Pathways recommends that: “to help family members make the recipe for years to come, don’t forget to write it down and keep it in your recipe box.”

Start a tradition

As Grandparents’ Day increases in popularity in the UK, why don’t you mark it with a new tradition? It could be anything from taking your favourite walk together to just promising to call and check in – whatever works for your family dynamic. As you know this day will fall on the first Sunday in October every year, it gives you a set day to spend quality time together doing something special.

READ MORE: The best wedding gifts from grandparents to the couple

Light a candle

It’s a sad reality for many that Grandparents are lost too early. This day can be hard for those in this situation and, although a grand celebration may not be wise, marking the day with a small gesture of remembrance can be nice not only for parents but grandchildren too. As we’ve said, you can choose to share old photos and memories on this day as well and teach your little ones the lessons once imparted in you.

These are just some of the ways you can spend Grandparents’ Day with your family, but remember, think about what would work for you and the things you most love doing and start from there. Grandparents’ Day may not yet be a large holiday in the UK but it doesn’t only offer a great chance to spend time together but to connect the older and younger generations. For that reason, we hope, whatever your situation, you can find a way to mark it this year.

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