Most people plant trees for two reasons: aesthetic beauty and protection from the elements. But, they do so much more for us! In addition to calming and cooling us down, they absorb carbon dioxide from the air and release oxygen for us to breathe. In fact, one large tree can provide a day’s worth of oxygen for four people! If there is ever something to celebrate on this planet, trees should be near the top of the list. Thankfully, we have such a day: Arbor Day.
What is Arbor Day?
Arbor Day is the last Friday in April and is solely dedicated to the installation and enjoyment of trees. Most people honor trees on this day by planting new ones to be enjoyed for future generations. Truthfully, informally celebrating trees is a tradition as old as, well, dirt. It took a bit longer for civilization to catch up and formalize the process. The first worldwide tree-planting festival is thought to have taken place in Mondonedo, Spain in 1594. Organized by the mayor, a granite marker still memorializes the event and multiple lime and horse-chestnut trees still line the streets, evidence from the festival over 400 years ago. In the United States, however, it took even longer to create a formalized celebration of our leafy friends. In 1872, J. Sterling Morton submitted a resolution to the Nebraska State Board of Agriculture, encouraging them to “set aside one day to plant trees, both forest and fruit.” It was accepted and the Board set aside a date for the event: April 10. They even promoted the event by promising prizes for both the counties and individuals responsible for planting the most trees on that day. As a result, more than one million trees were planted in Nebraska on the first-ever American Arbor Day. Shortly after this event, other states began to adopt the holiday. By 1920, more than 45 states were celebrating Arbor Day. Today, it’s celebrated in all 50 states. Additionally, dozens of countries around the world celebrate their own versions of Arbor Day in dedicated tree-centric ceremonies. Perhaps more notable than the tree planting itself is the intention behind the holiday. Most American holidays celebrate something that happened, but Arbor Day is a celebration of what is to come. It’s one of the few holidays created with hope for future generations, and that’s a moniker that continues to make it special.
How Can You Celebrate?
Everyone is encouraged to participate in Arbor Day! Here are some family-friendly activities for you to enjoy this April.
- Check your local listing for a ceremony. Almost every town in the country has a small celebration, so I bet yours does, too!
- Head to your local nursery and pick out a tree. Then, schedule a time with your family where you can all plant it in your backyard together. It’s not easy, but it’s rewarding. Plus, you will have a memory that lives on for many years.
- If you don’t have the space in your yard, look up local tree-planting organizations and volunteer your time with one of them.
- Read a book about trees
- Volunteer your time to clean up a local park. You won’t be planting any new trees, but you will be beautifying the home of existing species. What better way to celebrate the joy a tree brings?
- Go on a nature hike and look for your state tree on the trail. Even if you can’t find it, this is a great way to learn more about the local flora.
- Enjoy a family picnic underneath the shade of a big, leafy tree
- If you’re a whiz in the kitchen, cook a dish using ingredients from trees. As daunting as it sounds, it’s not too hard. Plus, you can ask your family to guess which tree ingredients you used.
- Press tree leaves. Find some tree leaves and press them between heavy books for a couple of weeks. You’ll be left with flat leaves that you can then frame or use in various decorations.
Happy Arbor Day!