The origins of Arbor Day

Sequoia National Park

Happy Arbor Day! I guess the date varies from year to year, depending on the optimal conditions for tree planting. It so happens that this festival of tree planting has ecclesiastical origins, as I learned in Joan Maldoof’s delightful little book, Treepedia: A Brief Compendium of Arboreal Lore. Turns out, “In 1805 a Spanish priest initiated the first modern celebration of tree planting, called the fiesta de arbol.” A bit more research revealed that the precise location of the first Arbor Day was Villanueva de la Siera, Spain. The event began with the ringing of church bells and Mass, followed by the characteristic planting of trees–then a party. Viva España! The first official American celebration of the event came on April 10, 1872 in Nebraska. Today, according to Maldoof, it is celebrated in more than forty-three countries. Happy planting!

Author: Anthony Lusvardi, SJ

Anthony R. Lusvardi, S.J., teaches sacramental theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. He writes on a variety of theological, cultural, and literary topics.

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