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Celebration TipsThe official Arbor Day is held the last Friday in April. Due to the diversity of this state, Arbor Day is celebrated in Texas communities anytime from November through April. Houston and many of its neighboring communities continue to observe Arbor Day on the third Friday in January. In south Texas, many cities celebrate Arbor Day during Arbor Week, the second week in February. Dallas recently decided to break with tradition altogether and celebrate Arbor Day in mid-November.
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The History of Arbor DayThe beauty of Arbor Day is that, rather than looking backward to events of the past, this holiday looks forward with promise for a future filled with trees. Arbor Day celebrates planting and nurturing trees. It celebrates all the ways trees enrich our lives and stabilize our environment.
While the purpose of Arbor Day lies in the future, it has an interesting history to earn a spot on the calendar. Historians trace Arbor Day’s origins back to the fifth century when Swiss villagers gathered to plant groves of oak trees. Adults turned the event into a festival and children were given treats as a reward for their help planting trees.
Arbor Day first appeared in the United States in 1872. J.Sterling Morton is credited with guiding this country’s first Arbor Day resolution through the Nebraska state legislature in that year. Residents of the Great Plains recognized how much trees could do for them, and they enthusiastically embraced Morton’s vision.
President Theodore Roosevelt was a strong supporter of Arbor Day. Early in the 20th century, it was becoming clear that the nation’s forests were being exhausted by cut out and get out timber harvesting. The science of forest management was emerging, and the government was moving to suppress wildfire and plant trees. President Roosevelt sent a letter to the children of the United States in which he wrote, A people without children would face a hopeless future; a country without trees is almost as hopeless.
In Texas, Arbor Day first appeared in Temple on February 22, 1889. W.Goodrich Jones led the citizens of Temple in a mass meeting to call for a tree planting campaign along the streets of the city. One year later, the first statewide observance of Arbor Day was held in Austin. Through the efforts of Senator George Tyler of Belton, February 22nd was set aside by law as Arbor Day to encourage the planting of trees in this state.
After the original Texas Arbor Day law expired, the state continued to observe Arbor Day by proclamation of the governor, usually on George Washington’s birthday. In 1949, the state legislature adopted a resolution designating the third Friday in January as Texas Arbor Day. Finally, in 1989 the legislature passed a resolution moving Texas Arbor Day to the last Friday in April to align with the traditionally observed national Arbor Day.
In 1919, the state legislature officially designated the pecan as the State Tree of Texas. The pecan was chosen for its adaptability anywhere in Texas, and because Governor James Hogg requested a pecan tree to be planted near his grave. He said, I want no monument of stone or marble, but plant at my head a pecan tree and at my feet an old-fashioned walnut. And when these trees shall bear, let the pecans and walnuts be given out among the plain people of Texas so they may plant them and make Texas a land of trees.
Thanks to the diversity of this state, Arbor Day is celebrated in Texas communities anytime from November through April. Houston and many of its neighboring communities continue to observe Arbor Day on the third Friday in January. In south Texas, many cities celebrate Arbor Day during Arbor Week, the second week in February. Dallas recently decided to break with tradition altogether and celebrate Arbor Day in mid-November.
The tree planting season ends with a bang on the last Friday in April with the Governor’s proclamation declaring the day the official state Arbor Day. The ceremony moves around from place to place to help reach audiences all over the state.
Today, above all, Arbor Day is for children, parents, and grandparents to strengthen the bond between generations by planting trees together. It presents a tremendous opportunity to teach fundamental lessons about stewardship of our natural resources and caring for our environment. There is no more powerful demonstration than helping children plant and care for trees that their own children and grandchildren will enjoy.