While almost everyone agrees that protecting the environment is important, very few take concrete action. Arbor Day is a day set aside to encourage you to support environmental sustainability by planting a tree. Trees help protect the environment in so many ways. Let’s learn more about this holiday.

people holding tiny plants in their hands

What is Arbor Day?

People are encouraged to plant and take care of trees on Arbor day. Different dates are chosen around the globe so that they fall in spring. The holiday goes by different names around the world. Australia celebrates the holiday twice with national school tree day and with national tree day – the International Day of Tree Planting. Brazil holds Dia da Árvore celebrations. The Central African Republic celebrates National Tree Planting Day. Costa Rica celebrates Día del Árbol as well. Regardless of the name given to the event, many countries celebrate this holiday by planting or caring for a tree.

When Do We Celebrate Arbor Day?

This holiday is celebrated at different times throughout the United States and beyond. Officially, in the United States, this holiday is held on the last Friday of April. However, many states have set their own specific date. Most countries in the United Kingdom celebrate National Tree Week in November.

The History of Arbor Day

Worldwide

The roots of Arbor Day go back to Mondoñedo, Spain. It was organized by the town’s mayor. A ceremony took place in a park called Alameda de los Remedios. The people planted lime and horse-chestnut trees. If you visit Mondoñedo today, you can still see a bronze plaque and a small granite marker.

No more festivities were held, however, until 1805. This Arbor Day was organized by Father Don Ramón Vacas Roxo, who convinced his congregation in Villanueva de la Sierra, Spain, that trees were good for their health and for the environment. Therefore, he helped his congregation along with others living in the area to plant trees in the Valley of the Ejido. Together, the people planted a popular tree on Fat Tuesday. Then, they held a meal and had a big dance. During the dance, the Catholic priest encouraged people to plant tree plantations.

In the U.S.

The tradition of celebrating this holiday reached the United States in 1872. The first celebration was organized by J. Sterling Morton. He was a newspaper editor and an important government figure. A teacher at heart, he built a 30 room mansion that his son expanded to 52 rooms. He used the property surrounding the home to teach people to plant trees with a special emphasis on heirloom apple trees.

From his home in Nebraska City, Nebraska, he encouraged the planting of over a million trees on April 10, 1872. If you visit Nebraska City today, you can see his home and some of the trees that were planted on that day.

People still might not know about this important holiday if it were not for the efforts of Birdsey Northrop from Kent, Connecticut. As a young boy, he helped his mother plant a maple tree. He was amazed as it grew over the years. After graduating from Yale University with a degree in theology, he traveled to all the small towns he could find in Massachusetts and Connecticut encouraging town leaders to plant trees along their main highways.

He became one of New England’s most influential educational leaders, and he was invited to Japan to speak to the country’s leaders. He finally made it to Japan in 1895 establishing the holiday there. Returning to the United States, he traveled to almost every state helping them establish their own Arbor Day celebrations. Thanks to his hard work and with the help of others, on April 15, 1907, President Roosevelt officially recognized Arbor Day.

Arbor Day Celebrations

man planting a tree

Different communities celebrate in different ways. Many organizations join together to plant trees in parks and other public areas. Often times, public gardens hold special parties on this day.

The National Arbor Day Foundation is responsible for overseeing many events in the United States. People can join this organization for only $10. They get 10 free trees. Those joining get to choose the trees that they want to plant based on what will grow in their area. People can also choose to send the trees as a gift to someone else. They can also choose to have the foundation plant 10 trees in one of the national parks.

Communities in the United States who band together to plant trees receive the title of Tree City USA. More than 3,400 communities have already joined this program. Each community must pledge to spend $2 for each person who lives there on trees. They must also pledge to celebrate Arbor Day in some way. Lawmakers must also pass laws to protect the trees.

The celebration even extends to South Africa, where residents are encouraged to plant specific types of trees each year. The country also joins together to celebrate important established trees growing in the country.

A Word of Ending

Arbor Day is a worldwide celebration of planting and taking care of trees. The official date for this holiday in the United States is the last day of April, but many states have a state specific date as well. The hard work of J. Sterling Morton and Birdsey Northrop helped to spread the holiday around the world, but it originally started in Spain. Now, people are encouraged to celebrate Arbor Day by planting their own trees. You can obtain them from the Arbor Day Foundation. They can also celebrate by encouraging their city to become a Tree City USA.

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