by Elaine Voci, Phd, Certified Life-Cycle Celebrant®
April is the month in which we celebrate Arbor Day, an annual observance that recognizes the vital role of trees in our lives and promotes tree planting and care. It was first observed as a holiday in 1872 in Nebraska, but tree planting is a ritual as old as humans have been alive.
The tree is seen throughout history and literature as the symbol of life itself. In the words of J. Sterling Morton, a journalist and the founder of Arbor Day, ““The cultivation of flowers and trees is the cultivation of the good, the beautiful and the ennobling in man, and for one, I wish to see this culture become universal.” He and his wife were settlers in Nebraska and both were lovers of nature; their yard was full of various trees, plants and flowers.
When J. Sterling became the editor of the area’s first newspaper, he never missed a chance to spread his enthusiastic love for trees of all types. His audience was receptive because fellow settlers missed trees and needed them to help provide a windbreak for their crops, building materials and shade for livestock and people. As we all know today, that without trees it would be hard for any living thing to breath; trees oxygenate our Earth.
In 1872, the Board of Agriculture accepted Morton’s proposal to set aside one specific day (Arbor Day) to plant trees; they created contests with prizes awarded to citizens who planted the most trees. It was an overwhelming success and on April 10th over a million trees were planted in Nebraska! There are now Arbor Day festivities observed across the United States and in many other countries of the world.
Ways to Celebrate Arbor Day in Your Community
If you need inspiration, The Arbor Foundation has a great website (https://www.arborday.org/) with a list of ideas that include…
- Hold an Arbor Day ceremony and honor good stewards in your community.
- Organize a Big Tree or Oldest Tree search within your community using online resources
- Plant a tree in a place where you can do so safely, following current CDC guidelines
- Read a book about trees, such as The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein.
- Look for or even give online or live streaming classes on tree pruning, tree selection, tree identification, and tree planting. When we are able to leave our nests of physical distancing, consider taking or giving a live course on these topics
- Sponsor a poster contest, poetry contest or tree trivia contest.
- When we are able to safely return to our communities, volunteer with a local tree-planting organization.