National Arbor Day is a holiday on which trees are honored. The origin of Arbor
Day lies in the 19th century. The driving force behind National Arbor Day was
J. Sterling Morton. The history of Arbor Day is a history of the celebration
of the importance of trees to human life. The history of Arbor Day is thus part
of the modern movement towards awareness that we may need to cultivate "nature"
a bit in order to preserve it.
The "arbor" in "Arbor Day" comes from the Latin word for
"tree," arbor. But the word signifying the trellising structures known
as "garden arbors" has a different origin. It derives from the Old
French, erbier, which means "garden." But the coincidental similarity
in spelling between the Latin and French terms led writers of English to exploit
the connection and use "arbor" as the spelling for the trellising
structures that grace our gardens.
The official Arbor Day Web site relates the full history of Arbor Day celebrations.
According to this site, it was in Nebraska, on January 4, 1872, that J. Sterling
Morton first proposed a holiday for tree-planting. Nebraska, mind you, was a
more or less tree-less state at the time. Morton's proposal was adopted, and
the idea of observing such a holiday spread to other states later in the 1870s.
States today most commonly observe the National Arbor Day holiday on the last
Friday in April. The observance of National Arbor Day has even spread to countries
outside of the U.S.
Unlike the storied origins of many holidays, the history of Arbor Day is the
tale of a modern celebration. Nonetheless, while the history of Arbor Day may
be short, the pre-history of Arbor Day, if we may call it that, recedes into
the mists of the distant past. The reverence for trees (e.g., holly trees) among
the ancient Celts may come to mind first, but it was the Norse who held that
an ash tree supported the very universe! Arbor Day harkens back to a time when
people lived in closer communion with nature -- and gave trees the respect due