ARBOR DAY is on June 25 in the Philippines. It is an annual celebration of trees and the vital role they play. But it was observed without any fanfare here in Leyte, if at all – quite a big disappointment for me. Observing a day for ghosts and goblins do much better. Why do we even have a day devoted to trees, and why are they so important? Let’s go back to history.

Arbor Day traces its origins to Nebraska City, Nebraska, in 1872. Julius Sterling Morton, a journalist and politician, was an ardent advocate for the environment and recognized the importance of trees, especially in a place like Nebraska, which was largely devoid of trees at the time. (I have been to Nebraska City a few times just to feel the historical ambience of Arbor Day.)

The first Arbor Day was celebrated on April 10, 1872. It is estimated that more than one million trees were planted in Nebraska on that day.

The idea of Arbor Day spread rapidly across the country. By the 1920s, each state in the United States had established its own Arbor Day, with the celebration date depending on the best tree-planting season for each region. Schools began to incorporate tree-planting ceremonies and educational programs on the importance of trees into their Arbor Day festivities.

Arbor Day eventually transcended national borders and became an international event. Today, many countries around the world celebrate their own version of Arbor Day or a similar tree-planting holiday.

Over the years, Arbor Day has evolved to encompass broader environmental awareness and stewardship. While the main focus remains on planting and nurturing trees, many also use the day to educate others about the importance of conservation, recycling, and other environmentally-friendly practices.

Through community engagement, education, and activism, Arbor Day helps to ensure that future generations can enjoy a greener, healthier world.

Arbor Day is a day for everyone, regardless of their background or perspective. People from different cultures and religions around the world have always revered trees and considered them sacred. For example, in Hinduism, the Banyan tree is regarded as a symbol of life and fertility, while in Celtic mythology, trees are seen as a link between the heavens, earth, and the underworld.

Arbor Day is also a chance for urban dwellers to reconnect with nature. City-dwellers often have limited access to green spaces, and tree-planting initiatives on Arbor Day can help to create more green oases in urban areas.

In conclusion, Arbor Day is an amazing opportunity to appreciate and celebrate the incredible importance of trees. Whether you’re a die-hard tree lover or just starting to appreciate their beauty and importance, take a moment to plant a tree, or simply give your local tree friends a hug. They deserve it! By Manny Palomar, PhD (EV Mail July 3-9, 2023 issue)