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South Africa celebrates grandparents in National Elder Persons week

Posted By Marilynh / September 12, 2016 / 0 Comments

Grandparents Day in South Africa
falls on the first Sunday in October
and is part of National Elder Persons week.

You’ve Earned It investigates
the origins of National Grandparents Day
and Respect for the Elderly Day.



In Japan,the third Monday in September is Respect for the Elderly day.  Called keiro no hi, it is considered to be a more serious day than Grandparents day which is celebrated in the West.

Volunteers will distribute free “obento” lunch boxes to elderly people in the whole neighborhood.  In the smaller villages, keirokai shows will be held, where the young people and school children prepare dances and songs for a special keirokai ceremony. Those attending the ceremony will be treated to lunch, tea and sweets after the performance.

Also known as Seniors’ Day, Keiro no Hi was established as a national holiday in 1966 to express respect for the elders in the community, and to recognize and thank them for their contributions to society and last but not least, celebrate their long lives.  Originally, anyone over 60 was considered a senior, but more recently with increasing longevity, it tends to refer to those over 65.  Citizens who turn 100 in the preceding year will receive a gift of a silver sake dish.




Across the ocean in the United States, a similar day is National Grandparents Day, a holiday celebrated in the beginning of September each year since 1978.  Unfortunately, National Grandparents Day falls at the time when the schools begin their academic year, and tends to be overlooked because the parents and grandchildren are frantically settling into the new school year and are certainly not able to travel to visit grandparents.

As an experiment, we entered ‘Grandparents Day’ into the google search engine for South Africa.  The results to appear were, firstly, the Netflorist web page, with grandparents day appearing alongside bosses’ day, secretaries’ day, mother’s day and others.   Does that say anything about the importance of the day in South Africa?

Perhaps it simply says something about Netflorist’s search engine optimization! When reading further,it became apparent that in Grandparents Day in South Africa falls on the first Sunday in October and is part of National Elder Persons week.  In 1994, the Government of South Africa started taking proactive steps to improve the lives of the elderly and thus National Elder Persons week came into being to celebrate the contribution elderly people make to life in South Africa.  They are honouring the fact that  the ‘uGogo’, revered in African culture, is more than ever before an essential part of the backbone of our country.  This has taken on a new meaning with the decimation of our young adults by Aids resulting in the grandmothers in the townships having to step into the breach to care for the orphans and vulnerable children. They certainly deserve a lot more than a Netflorist delivery!




In many of the pre-schools and junior schools in South Africa, grandparents are encouraged to visit the school and take part in a Grandparents Day.  It may be attending a play, or simply taking part in an open day.  We found little evidence that Grandparents Day in South Africa is celebrated much beyond the pre-schools, and many grandparents with older grandchildren that we canvassed were  unaware of the celebration and did not know that there is a National Grandparents day.

The main difference between National Grandparents Day and National Respect for the Elderly day is that the latter includes those who are elderly, but not necessarily grandparents!  It is thus much more global in concept.

This year National Grandparents Day will fall on the 2nd October. Do your grandchildren have anything planned for you on National Grandparents Day?


Article by Hilary Henderson
Deputy Editor, You’ve Earned It





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