Happy Arbor Day! Trees Glorious Trees

treewith-leaves-remixTrees have always been awe-inspiring, even to our earliest ancestors. Trees can hold a poetic beauty as they sway in the breeze, musical tones fluttering from their leaves, colors riotously changing with the season. They are hallmarks of our holidays. They are the chroniclers of time, capturing in a ringed litany the ebb and wane of the world in which they are rooted. Trees protect, offer food, preserve the soil and provide resources. Indeed, one of their earliest representations illustrates the importance of trees to cultures through the ages:

Celtic Tree of Life.

Celtic Tree of Life.

In art, the tree of life is a common motif used in various forms to represent harmony, unity and connections between heaven and Earth, the past and present, death and rebirth. The symbol takes various forms, but basic elements include roots, trunk, branches and leaves, blossoms or fruit. In the Jewish and Christian traditions, the tree of life is often used to represent the cycle of life, death and rebirth. The Mexican tree of life often depicts religious stories, such as the tale of Adam and Eve or the story of Noah’s ark. The motif is also a traditional Celtic symbol, where it is often depicted as one big circle connecting all forms of life. We use the same tree of life design in “family trees” to depict connections within a family group.[1]

Today is Arbor Day, a time to celebrate the ancient majesty and sustaining force that trees embody. First, a bit of history.

Let’s go back to 1805 in the Spanish village of Villanueva de la Sierra. Don Ramon Vacas Roxo was a priest who “(c)onvinced of the importance of trees for health, hygiene, decoration, nature, environment and customs,” decided to launch a tree planting festival. The first tree planted was a poplar in the Valley of the Ejido. The feast and plantings lasted three days and soon became an annual tradition that proudly continues to today. Don Ramon Vacas Roxo also drafted a manifesto sent to surrounding towns that exclaimed love and respect for nature and encouraged the establishment of plantations.[2]

J. Sterling Norton

J. Sterling Norton

Later in the century and across the globe, another tree devotee emerged, this time in the United States. When J. Sterling Norton and his wife moved into the Nebraska territory in 1854, they missed the leafy vistas that they had enjoyed back in Detroit. A journalist by trade, Norton became editor of Nebraska’s leading paper and Secretary of the Nebraska territory. (Eventually he became the Secretary of Agriculture under President Grover Cleveland.)  In these positions he exerted considerable influence on popular perceptions regarding the beauty and health effects provided by trees, as well as the intrinsic value of tree planting for generations of Nebraskans. Through his efforts, Nebraska became a forerunner in managing resources through a campaign encouraging Nebraskans to plant trees. The first Arbor Day in the United States was held April 10, 1872.  On that day approximately one million trees were planted in Nebraska. In 1885 Arbor Day became a legal holiday in the state, celebrated on April 22, Norton’s birthday.[3] Although not a legal holiday in other states, all states in one way or another do celebrate, the most common commemoration being tree planting.

Today, Arbor Day is celebrated by countries throughout the world. Rather than waxing eloquently any further, however, let’s actually view some of these treasures from around the world in all their diverse glory. So trek over to your favorite leafy (or otherwise adorned) friend, have a sit down and enjoy the wonders of these beauteous, eye-popping and phantasmagorical images.

Click on the image below to view the enchanting slideshow of “The Most Ancient and Magnificent Trees From Around the World” courtesy of MSN Travel.

ancient trees

Other ways to celebrate Arbor Day:

  • Learn about other countries who each year commemorate their own day of trees.
  • Listen to Palestinian American poet Ibtisam Barakat read her poem on Tree Day, celebrated in Ramallah each April.
  • View some extraordinary furniture created by molding trees as they grow.

Other links:


[1] People and Trees: An Intimate Connection | American Forests. (n.d.). Retrieved April 24, 2015, from https://www.americanforests.org/magazine/article/people-and-trees-an-intimate-connection/

[2] Miguel Herrero Uceda, Arbor Day Herrero Uceda, Miguel. Arbor Day (in Spanish). Quercus, nature review. March 2011

[3] History at arborday.org. (n.d.). Retrieved April 24, 2015, from http://www.arborday.org/celebrate/history.cfm

Bon Appetit Wednesday! Xtabentún: Earth Day and the Spirit of the Ancient Mayas

Today is Earth Day. For the Maya, living harmoniously with nature and being good stewards of the land rendered every day a celebration of the Earth and its bounty. So let’s get in the spirit of our modern Earth Day with a Maya concoction sure to please.

cocktailIt’s such a lovely time of year for a dinner party, but how do you set your gathering apart? How do you make your fiesta better than the rest? Serve an ancient cocktail with a haunting and seductive history. We are coming to your rescue with a recipe for Jaltun Ha, a refreshing sweet and sour cocktail using the ancient Mexican spirit called xtabentún. But before you begin preparations for the dinner party of the season, you’ll want to make sure you can dazzle your guests with the ancient history behind their drink. Continue reading

Strata: Portraits of Humanity, Episode 6, “The Somerset Levels and Moors” and “Euskal Jaiak”

StrataImage-webEpisode 6 of the documentary series Strata:  Portraits of Humanity, produced by AntiquityNOW’s partner, Archaeological Legacy Institute, comprises two films that explore the forces that bind us as a people in a particular society. Continue reading

How Advertising Helped Write History, Part 2

Uncle Sam

Don’t miss Part 1 of this fascinating series! And now, on to Part 2…

Winning wars

During the World Wars in the twentieth century, often a simple poster with a powerful message was enough to persuade people to do their patriotic and moral duty. Here are a few key advertisements that made history and could have tipped the scales towards victory. Continue reading

Bon Appetit Wednesday! Dulcia Domestica, Ancient Date Candies

800px-JudeanDatePalmMethuselahWe’ve talked about the date before. It was such an important food in ancient times, it’s hard not to be impressed by its ubiquity and its longevity. In fact, the history of the date was featured in one of our most popular posts, Ancient Mesopotamian Palace Cakes from Ur! Today we thought we’d revisit the date with another fabulous, sticky sweet indulgence, the Roman treat called Dulcia Domestica. Continue reading

How Advertising Helped Write History, Part 1

Times SquareImagine standing in the dead center of Times Square. Aggressive flashing lights, pulses, and neon words play tug-o-war for your attention. Inviting music oozes from the glare of what seems like a thousand restaurants as errant street vendors grapple to be heard above the din. Everywhere you turn, someone or something begs you to do this, eat that or buy a product. Continue reading

It’s Almost That Time Again:  May Is AntiquityNOW Month!

AN News Grey

During May we celebrate all things ancient, with a modern twist. From 2,000 year old nanotechnology to today’s supercomputers, from earliest chanted rituals to electronic bloviations, the arc of human history has been, shall we say, complicated. As sentient beings, we have constructed marvels in word and deed. We have also destroyed and obliterated that which we don’t understand and those we choose not to recognize. We strut, preen, cogitate, ruminate—we make an altogether spectacular tragicomedy as we shuffle along this mortal coil. Humans are a confounding lot who often are doomed to repeat the very histories we disregard. Here lies the fascination with looking to the past as it reflects our very modern sense of self. (See below quotes for variations on the themes above.) Continue reading

Bon Appetit Wednesday! Cherry Clafoutis for Cherry Blossom Season!

cherry blossomIt’s the season for one of nature’s most beautiful blooms, the cherry blossom. In Washington D.C. from March 20th-April 12th, the National Cherry Blossom Festival is in full swing, and in Japan in March and April, festivals take place throughout the country. So this week we’ve decided to feature a delicious recipe for Cherry Clafoutis along with the cherry’s long and juicy history. Here are some of the highlights: Continue reading

Get Ready for Easter with AntiquityNOW

Bell-shaped_flowers_-_Easter_LilyWhether you’re celebrating a religious holiday or vying to win the egg hunt, it’s important to know where our holidays come from and how ancient are the roots that bind us all together. Below you’ll find our previous posts about the history of Easter, its origins and its traditions.

Also, we’ve included two delicious recipes for Passover, which begins tomorrow and ends next Saturday, April 11th.

And, for a bit of fun, check out this beautiful slideshow of Easter eggs around the world, courtesy of the The Huffington Post. 

Have a wonderful weekend!

History of Easter

Passover Recipes:

Bon Appetit Wednesday! Ful Mudammas for Passover

5607910397_2b7201b372_bPassover begins this Friday evening, April 3rd, and if you haven’t finished planning your Seder, do not fear. We have a delicious recipe that is vegan, kosher and ancient. Ful Mudammas has a fascinating history.  It also boasts a wealth of nutrients that have sustained the ancient Israelites for thousands of years.

For a brief explanation of Passover and another savory Seder dish, see our blog post from last year, Bon Appetit Wednesday! Green Borscht With Matzah for a Multi-Cultural Passover. Continue reading