Tree planting festivals are as old as civilization itself. But the official founding in the U.S. of a tree planting holiday dates to 1872 when Arbor Day was established in Nebraska by J. Sterling Morton.

Most holidays celebrate a note-worthy event or person from the past. Arbor Day, however, inspires hope for the future.

On Jan. 4, 1872, Morton first proposed a tree-planting holiday. The date was set for April 10 of that year. It is estimated that more than one million trees were planted in Nebraska on the first Arbor Day. During the 1870s other states passed legislation to celebrate the tree-planters’ holiday (source: National Arbor Day Foundation).

In recognition of the substantial environmental benefits provided by trees, including shade, food, shelter, cleaner air and erosion control, National Arbor Day was officially recognized, celebrated and observed as a holiday by a 1970 presidential proclamation. For many years Arbor Day was celebrated on April 22, Morton’s birthday. National Arbor Day is now celebrated on the last Friday in April.

Ways to Celebrate Arbor Day