Arbor Day for the year 2023 is celebrated/ observed on Friday, April 28th.
Arbor Day is observed in spring in the United States but globally dates vary depending on the region’s climate and planting season. It is a holiday to encourage people to plant and care for trees.
Arbor Day and the World
Close to around 50 countries around the world celebrate Arbor Day with the holiday celebrated during tree planting season (spring) depending on where the country is located geographically, and how the weather is in the Northern or Southern Hemisphere.
The origins of Arbor Day date back to the early 1870s in Nebraska City. A journalist by the name of Julius Sterling Morton moved to the state with his wife, Caroline, in 1854, a little more than 10 years before Nebraska gained its statehood in 1867. The couple purchased 160 acres in Nebraska City and planted a wide variety of trees and shrubs in what was primarily a flat stretch of the desolate plain.
Morton also became the editor of the state’s first newspaper, Nebraska City News, which was a perfect platform for Morton to spread his knowledge of trees… and to stress their ecological importance to Nebraska. His message about tree life resonated with his readers, many of whom recognized the lack of forestation in their community. Morton also became involved with the Nebraska Board of Agriculture.
On January 7, 1872, Morton proposed a day that would encourage all Nebraskans to plant trees in their community. The agriculture board agreed, and after some back-and-forth about the title—the event was originally going to be called “Sylvan Day” in reference to forest trees—Morton convinced everyone that the day should reflect the appreciation of all trees, and “Arbor Day” was born.
The First Arbor Day
With the seeds of interest already planted in the minds of devoted Nebraska City News readers, the first ever Arbor Day was held on April 10, 1872, and was a wild success. Morton led the charge in the planting of approximately 1 million trees. Enthusiasm and engagement were aided by the prizes awarded to those who planted trees correctly.
The tradition quickly began to spread. In 1882, schools across the country started to participate, and more than a decade after its introduction, Arbor Day became an official state holiday in Nebraska in 1885. April 22 was initially chosen because of its ideal weather for planting trees and in recognition of Morton’s birthday.
Arbor Day Becomes A National Holiday
It wasn’t until 1970, however, that Arbor Day became recognized nationwide thanks to the efforts of President Richard Nixon. This move was in line with other environmentally friendly actions taken by Nixon in the 1970s, including the passing of the Clean Air Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act, and the National Environmental Protection Act, along with the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency.
Although some states celebrate Arbor Day at different times of the year to ensure that the trees are in the best environment to thrive, the national observance falls on the last Friday in April. And although Julius Morton died in 1902, well before the holiday was given a formal day of observance across the country, he is still commemorated in Washington, D.C. in a statue dedicated to the “Father of Arbor Day” in the National Hall of Fame.
Morton’s words about Arbor Day resonate strongly today, as climate change becomes a growing threat: “Other holidays repose upon the past; Arbor Day proposes for the future.”
- Hold an Arbor Day ceremony and honor the good stewards in your community.
- Organize a Big Tree or Oldest Tree search within your community.
- Plant a tree.
- Host a reception to honor the Tree Board members in your community.
- Write a story, produce a play, or present a skit about trees.
- Choose a public park or downtown area to clean up.
- Read a book about trees.
- Hold an Arbor Day Birthday Party for the community.
- Sponsor a craft show featuring exhibitors who engage in crafts with natural materials.
- Schedule classes on tree pruning, tree selection, tree identification and tree planting.
- Hold a Read-In at the library.
- Host a concert.
- Sponsor a poster contest, poetry contest or tree trivia contest.
- Organize a tree identification hike.
- Volunteer with a local tree-planting organization.
- Encourage neighborhood organizations to hold Arbor Day block parties.