Arbor Day is a national holiday created to recognize the importance of trees. It is celebrated every year on the last Friday in April. The most common way people celebrate Arbor Day is to get together in groups to plant trees.
The day was the brainchild of Julius Sterling Morton, a Nebraskan journalist who later became the U.S. Agriculture Secretary under President Grover Cleveland. Morton was an enthusiastic promoter of tree planting, had long championed the idea of a day dedicated to planting trees.
Arbor Day was first celebrated in Nebraska on April 10, 1874, following a proclamation by Gov. Robert W. Furnas. In less than a decade, the idea for the holiday caught on in other sates until, by 1882, its observance had become a national event. Nebraska made Arbor Day a legal holiday in 1885, moving it to April 22, Morton’s birthday. An estimated one million trees were planted during the first Arbor Day.
Many other countries around the world set aside one day each year to celebrate trees, though not all of them take place on the same day as Arbor Day. One of the oldest is Tu Bishvat, a minor Jewish holiday that usually falls in late January or early February. In ancient times, the people of Israel used this day to plant trees and celebrate their gifts by eating dried fruit and nuts, including figs, dates, raisins, carob, and almonds. Many American Jews still observe this day.
Here are some suggestions on how to celebrate the day, courtesy of the Arbor Day Foundation:
- Celebrate Arbor Day in a personal way by planting a tree yourself. Plant trees on your own property, or volunteer with your local government agency to plant or care for trees on public land in your area.
- Read a book about trees, and learn to identify trees in your yard and neighborhood.
- Enjoy the outdoors. Visit a local park or take a nature hike, taking care to notice the different tree varieties you encounter. Bring along a field guide to help with identification.
- Attend a class on tree and plant care.
- Volunteer with a local tree-planting organization. You’ll meet new people while making a difference in your community.