Friday, November 10, 2006

"National Grandparents Day" & "Double-Nine" Festival

How did you celebrate the last "National Grandparents Day"? Or the last "Double-Nine" festival? When were these held this year? You don't know? (Well, I'll tell you when at the end of this posting.)

According to a website dedicated to National Grandparents Day, found
here, that secular U.S. holiday has a threefold purpose:

  • To honor grandparents
  • To give grandparents an opportunity to show love for their children's children.
  • To help children become aware of the strength, information and guidance older people can offer.
Wikipedia only provides a very brief explanation about this designated day, found here:

The establishment of this holiday began with Marian McQuade, who spearhead[ed] a campaign for the establishment of an official holiday in honor of grandparents. Her efforts finally paid off in 1973 when Governor Arch Moore declared the first Grandparent's Day in West Virginia. Later that year, Senator Jennings Randolph (D-WV) introduced a resolution in the United States Senate to make Grandparent's Day a national holiday. Five years later, Congress passed legislation proclaiming the first Sunday after Labor Day as National Grandparents Day.

The proclamation was signed by President Jimmy Carter in 1978. September was chosen for the holiday, to signify the "autumn years" of life. Congress' action is found in Title 36 of the United States Code in
Section 125, "calling on the people of the United States and interested groups and organizations to observe National Grandparents Day with appropriate ceremonies and activities."

My internet searches suggest that most celebrations of this designated day in the United States have occurred within private homes, at primary schools, through card & flower shops, and in community centers. Wikipedia confirms my impression about the limited impact of this secular holiday by its very few listing of online references on this topic, for example sites found here:
Grandparents-Day, GeoCities History, and Hallmark.

American grandparents play significant roles as co-residents in family homes and also as caregivers for their grandchildren. Recent statistics on these roles are set forth in a "
Featured Facts" article found online here, issued by the U. S. Census Bureau on the occasion of the September 12, 2004, recognition of National Grandparents Day.

In other cultures far away, a different day was designated to respect the role of elders. The traditional Chinese festival known as the "
Double-Nine" is described here:

The Elder's day is the Double-Nine Festival, the 9th day of 9th lunar month. The Chinese called this festival Chung-Yang Jie. The Elder's day was re-established by the Republic of China (Taiwan) in 1974. This is because the government wants to teach the youth respect for the elders. [T]he mayors in the major cities in Taiwan will visit the houses of senior citizens on Double Nines day to ensure that the next generation will remember this festival.

A resource published by the Ministry of Culture, of the Peoples' Republic of China, found here, explains the "Double-Nine" festival in detail, and then mentions its significance for that country:

Since nine is the highest odd digit, people take two of them together to signify longevity. Therefore, the ninth day of the ninth month has become a special day for people to pay their respects to the elderly and a day for the elderly to enjoy themselves. It has also been declared China's Day for the Elderly.

Another resource, found
here, indicates how this traditional "Elder Day" is celebrated generally among Chinese people:

It is customary, on the day of the Double-Nine Festival, for Chinese to hike on the hill. During the evening they should carry a bag of dogwood and go to Double-Nine Festival party. They drink the chrysanthemum wine, watch the chrysanthemums and talk about paintings and poetry.

Today, Chinese don’t have the time to celebrate this festival, since this is not a national holiday in China.

In Taiwan, some people will fly kites in competitions during that weekend, because it’s usually windy in the 9th lunar month.

Mainland China is changing its views of senior citizens, as indicated in an article entitled "Elderly's Day: Our Seniors Want More Care",
published October 23, 2004, here:

As Chinese senior citizens celebrated the Double Ninth Festival, or "Elderly's Day," Friday, there is growing appeal that the elderly should be better taken care of.

The life expectancy of Chinese has reached 72 years today, and how to create a sound environment for the elderly to enjoy their life still needs painstaking efforts of the whole society, sociologists say.

This is especially true when China's large population of senior citizens is taken into account. China has a population of 1.3 billion and 130 million, or 10 percent, of the people are aged above 60, the largest group of senior citizens in the world. The number is expected to soar to 400 million by 2050.

Taiwan's treatment of seniors is addressed in a perceptive, translated article by Chiou Tian-juh, entitled "The elderly are not just a problem to be solved", published in the Taipei Times on November 4, 2006, found online here. He reports:

The ninth day of the ninth lunar month was "Double Nine" Festival -- a day to remember the elderly. Government agencies and non-governmental organizations across Taiwan were once again busy with the usual visits to centenarians, donating money, or handing out gifts of pots, bowls and basins. This is repeated every year. * * *

In recent years, policies toward the aged in the West have taken a turn toward social democracy. In the post-Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan era, free market policies have developed into the "third way" followed by former US president Bill Clinton, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and former German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. Blair has said his conception of society was that the state should not only provide services for senior citizens, but also confirm their value and laud their experience and contributions.

The "third way" concept regards old people as ordinary citizens. They are people just like everyone else, free to choose the lifestyle they want and participate in various aspects of social life. The point of a policy on the elderly is to create a favorable space with which senior citizens can identify, allowing them to live in a world of hope and dreams.

I doubt that the United States would adopt the "Double-Nine" Festival from the Chinese, but we should expand our already-designated, national day of recognition for seniors.

I suggest that National Grandparents Day should be expanded into a "National Elders Recognition Day", to celebrate all American senior citizens in their accomplishments and roles, regardless of their past or current domestic situations.

But couldn't we pick a fixed, not a floating date? It's easier to remember.

This year, National Grandparents Day was held on
September 10, 2006, and the Double-Nine Festival was celebrated on October 30, 2006 (according to Wikipedia, here).

* * *

Update: 03/14/07:

Awareness in China about its growing elderly population was the subject of an article entitled "Aging population a major challenge", by Xie Chuanjiao, published by the China Daily, on March 12, 2007.

Following is an excerpt from the article, which addresses population projections, senior status, funding supports, and health care issues.

China faces the problem of aging population more than any other country, with the number of people above 60 expected to cross 400 million by 2045, political advisors warned over the weekend.

China is "already the only country with an aging population of more than 100 million, and their number is growing even faster", said Zheng Silin, deputy director of the Subcommittee of Population, Resources and Environment of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) National Committee.

By the end of 2005, there were 144 million people aged 60 and above, or 11 per cent of the total population. This figure is likely to triple in less than 40 years, a process that could take hundreds of years in many other countries.

* * *