“Arbor Day” translates literally to “tree day” from the word “arbor” which originates from Latin. Arbor Day is one of the holidays that celebrate the planting, the upkeep, and preserving trees. For hundreds of years, communities from around the world have found different methods to honor the environment and nature. However, the overall appreciation of forests and trees in this modern era is attributed largely to Arbor Day.

Arbor Day might not be as popular as St. Patrick’s Day or Valentine’s Day, but it is steeped in history and these strong roots have stretched out across many nations. Arbor Day is usually celebrated on a different date each year. In the U.S. Arbor Day is usually held on the last Friday of the month in April.

What Is Arbor Day?

The origins of Arbor Day come from the early 1870s in Nebraska City. Julius Sterling Morton moved to Nebraska with Caroline, his wife in 1854, close to 10 years before Nebraska gained statehood in 1867. The couple bought 160 acres in Nebraska City where they went on to plant a wide selection of shrubs and trees in an area that was originally flat comprising of a desolate plain.

Morton was also the editor of the Nebraska City News (the first newspaper for this state), which offered the ideal platform for Morton to impart his knowledge about trees and to impart information about the ecological importance they should have to Nebraska. His messages about “tree life” resonated with many readers, with many recognizing the absence of forestation around their community.

Morton later joined the Nebraska Board of Agriculture. On the 7th of January 1872, Morton suggested dedicating a day that would encourage all the residents that lived in Nebraska to start planting trees. The board agreed to his proposal, and after a bit of back-and-forth about what to name the day, this event was supposed to be called “Sylvan day” to reference the forest trees. But Morton managed to convince the board that this event should be a reflection of our appreciation for all trees, and this is how “Arbor Day” was born.

The First Arbor Day

The first Arbor Day was celebrated on the 10th of April 1872 and was an instant success. Morton headed up the event which involved planting around 1 million trees. Engagement and enthusiasm were assisted by prizes that were awarded to the participants that planted the trees correctly.

From here the tradition spread quickly. In 1882, schools from around the U.S. started participating, and around 10 years after the introduction of this celebration, Arbor Day was turned into one of the official state holidays in Nebraska in 1885.

How To Celebrate Arbor Day

Arbor Day in the United States is held on the last Friday in April. It is recognized and remembered by planting trees and emphasizing how to care for them to pave the way to protect the natural resources of our planet. Morton’s words about this event resonate even stronger today, as changes to our climate have become an increasing threat: “other holidays repose on upon the past while Arbor Day proposes for the future”.

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