Why Do We Celebrate Thanksgiving?

 

For some of us Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to celebrate a long weekend, usually eating delicious food consisting of Turkey, with family & Friends.  But let’s explore the real meaning behind Thanksgiving.

Let’s take a trip back to 1621 Plymouth Massachusetts. After the harvest crops were gathered Govenor William Bradford announced a meeting on the hill for all pilgrims to listen to the pastor render Thanksgiving to God for all “his blessings” and to give thanks to Squanto and the Native Americans for teaching them how to do things and live life in different ways.

You might think that after 1621 the Pilgrims celebrated Thanksgiving every year and that it just became a national holiday. Well, that’s not the way  it happened. It wasn’t until 1863 when Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving an annual National Holiday.

Canadian Thanksgiving is more closely connected to the traditions of Europe than of the United States.  The very first celebration in Canada was in 1578 when Martin Frobisher an explorer from England arrived in Newfoundland. He wanted to give thanks for his safe arrival to the New World, peace and good harvest. That means the 1st Thanksgiving in Canada was celebrated 43 years before the pilgrims landed in Plymouth Massachusetts.

For a few hundred years, thanksgiving was celebrated in either late October or early November but it was declared a National Holiday in 1879, originally on November 6th, but after the World Wars it was moved to the second Monday in October because it kept conflicting with Remembrance day.

Another reason for Canadian Thanksgiving arriving earlier than its American counterpart is that Canada is geographically further north than the United States, causing the Canadian harvest season to arrive earlier than the American harvest season. And since Thanksgiving for Canadians is more about giving thanks for the harvest season than the arrival of pilgrims, it makes sense to celebrate the holiday in October. Other than the date there is not much difference in our celebrations, we both celebrate Thanksgiving with parades, family gatherings, pumpkin pie and a whole lot of turkey.

What will you be doing to celebrate Thanksgiving this year?



Blue Diamond Cocktail Recipe

 

 

Beat the heat with this MUST try refreshing summer beverage! Great for a cool summer thirst quencher on the patio with friends.

Recipe Includes:

1 ½ oz. Absolut® Citron
½ oz. McGuinness® Blue Curacao
1 oz. Fresh Lime Juice
2 oz. Cranberry Juice
Lime Wedge Garnish
 
Cheers!
The Old Mill Toronto Patio is open! It’s time to take your dining experience outside! The Old Mill Toronto Patio is an ideal place to meet friends and colleagues for afternoon tea, lunch, dinner or to simply unwind and enjoy our Summertime Patio Cocktail Menu.


Water Over The Bridge

Ice takes out the Old Mill Bridge in 1916.

The site of the Old Mill Bridge, March 29, 1916. ty of Toronto Archives. Fonds 1231, Item 326.

For most of the year, the valley of the Humber River is one of Toronto’s more serene locations. Bordered extensively by parkland, the Humber winds its way through the western part of the city, and attracts city-dwellers seeking a peaceful escape from their urban troubles. A bit north of Bloor Street is a picturesque stone bridge, known by a variety of names, which connects Old Mill Road to Catherine Street. This bridge dates from 1916, and serves as a reminder of the violence that the Humber is capable of when winter gives way to spring.

Prior to the arrival of British settlers in the late eighteenth century, the lower section of the Humber had been used by many other peoples. Numerous First Nations groups have lived in the area, and used the trail along the Humber to travel through the lands connecting Lake Ontario with the north. The French first arrived at the Humber in the seventeenth century, and eventually established a trading post at Humber Bay.

The landscape of the area began changing significantly in the 1790s, following the Toronto Purchase, when John Graves Simcoe established the King’s Mill at what is now known as the Old Mill site. Water from the Humber was diverted into a mill race, which powered the mill’s wheel, before rejoining the rest of the river further south. Over time, more mills set up along the Humber, adding additional mill races and dams to better capitalize on the water’s power. According to the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, there were a total of 164 mills built on the Humber.

Having greater impact on the landscape, however, was the deforestation along the river. As industry grew, so did the demand for wood. The removal of the trees and surrounding undergrowth eliminated much of the land’s ability to absorb water, resulting in increasingly severe floods.

The Old Mill Bridge, looking west, during the First World War. The bridge and its environs were frequently used during local military training. City of Toronto Archives. Fonds 1244, Item 793C.

Ice jams are known to have been a major problem for the millers along the Humber. In The Merchant-Millers of the Humber Valley: A Study of the Early Economy of Canada, Sidney Thomson Fisher writes that “year after year, floods and ice jams damaged or washed out the mill dams, but the millers repaired or rebuilt them; the advantages of the gradients and the rapid flow of the stream outweighed the disadvantages.” Numerous bridges were taken out as well, as raised water levels brought large chunks of ice down the Humber at road level, pushing against the bridges until they gave way.

It is believed that the first bridge at what is now Old Mill Road was erected in 1837. The bridge at (Old) Dundas Street to the north was then the primary road for those seeking to travel a great distance, with the Old Mill bridge used more by local residents to connect them to the immediate area. The bridge that enables Bloor to cross the Humber today was not completed until after the First World War; although Bloor Street was the second concession line, it did not become a major arterial in the area until development increased in the early twentieth century. Those seeking to continue west from Bloor Street would go north and cross the Humber using the Old Mill bridge.

March 24, 1914. The ice is nearlt at the height of the bridge. City of Toronto Archives. Fonds 1231, Item 1637.

By the 1910s, the bridge at the Old Mill site was primarily made of steel, with stone piers on either side of the river. Fears for its survival were an annual occurrence when the big thaw came at the end of winter. It only narrowly survived destruction in 1914. On March 24 of that year, the Star reported that the Humber “is one vast acreage of piled, twisted ice cakes, and in quantity, according to some of the [local] farmers, equals any winter of years past.” While it normally cleared the water by 20 feet, the bridge was reportedly only six feet above the jammed ice. Three days later, the Star reported that the ice was now touching the bottom of the bridge, despite continuous efforts upriver to break up the ice with dynamite. According to one article, “the bridge is badly twisted, and in parts of it the structure is very badly distorted. As yet, however, vehicles still pass over it, and it is still thought safe enough for traffic.”

With the newspapers fully expecting the bridge to give out, warm weather and heavy rains over the next two days melted much of the ice, thereby granting it a reprieve. It would not be so fortunate two years later.

Two men indicating the height of the ice. City of Toronto Archives. Fonds 200, Series 372, Subseries 84, Item 76.

On the afternoon of March 28, 1916, the ice once again reached the level of the bridge, effectively turning it into a dam. The Telegram reported that bridge was “groaning under a load of ice all afternoon with the flood swirling over the deck.” Around 6:00, an ice jam up at Lambton broke, putting even more pressure on the Old Mill bridge, as the water levels rose, reportedly up to eight feet over the bridge’s roadway.

The World quoted York County Constable R.B. Dennis as saying “it was just about 6:30 when thousands of tons of ice piled against the bridge… The west span went first, facing south, and was taken completely off the piers. Then the east one went off the abutments, but the centre span held. The ice is piled anywhere from 10 to 15 feet high over the valley north of the bridge and covers, I should say, 15 acres.”Robert Home Smith, the prominent local land owner and developer, told the World“ the whole valley was a rushing sea of water from bank to bank, and the immense bodies of ice were simply irresistible when they got behind the [bridge] structure… Fine trees, 70 years old, were snapped off and borne downstream.”

After the great torrent of water and ice had cleared, the centre span of bridge reportedly remained, absurdly marooned in the centre of the Humber, surrouded by chunks of ice and cut off from the road. “To the south, ice, trunks of trees, and parts of the wreck lie in chaotic confusion,” wrote the Telegram. “The remainder of the bridge itself is almost twisted beyond recognition, the steel supports at the base resembling corkscrews.”

The twisted remains of the bridge, March 29, 1916. City of Toronto Archives. Fonds 1231, Item 326A.

The Daily Mail and Empire reported that about 30 spectators had a narrow escape when the section of the bridge they were on gave out, forcing them to scramble to land. “Two men were unable to escape to the river banks, and were carried downstream about half a mile before they succeeded in extricating themselves from their perilous position by grasping the limb of a tree, hanging low across the water, and dragging themselves to safety.”

William James, the early Toronto photojournalist, was on site, reportedly laying in wait for the big ice break with a “moving-picture machine.” According to the Star, who ran one of James’ photos on the front page the next day. James “was rewarded with securing pictures of the great wave and of the first smash of the bridge and he was forced to flee for his own life from his perch on the bank.” The moving images he recorded do not appear to have survived, although many of his still images record the aftermath and demonstrate the extent of the damage.

The remains of the bridge. City of Toronto Archives. Fonds 1231, Item 330.

York County Council immediately vowed to replace the structure, and soon did so with the bridge that remains on the site today, at a reported cost of $50,000. Although initial newspaper reports promised a high-level bridge of solid steel, the finished product designed by Frank Barber is primarily made of concrete, a relatively novel engineering innovation for the time. This material proved stronger than the previous wood and steel bridges at the site, aided also by the three high arches and the wedges on the bridge’s supports, which encourage ice and debris to pass underneath.

The new bridge faced its first significant test the following March, only five weeks after it first opened to traffic. On March 24, 1917, the Star wrote that “the annual antics of the Humber River commenced early this morning, when a heavy ice field north of the new Bloor Street stone bridge near the ‘Old Mill’ crumpled and drifted towards the bridge, piling on both approaches.” By all accounts, however, the only damage done was to the dirt road approaching the bridge, and the new bridge survived the ordeal.

The current Old Mill Bridge, as it looked in September of 1917. City of Toronto Archives. Fonds 1231, Item 1536.

Nearly 100 years later, the Old Mill Bridge remains on the site, having withstood every annual thaw of the river, along with the severe flooding of Hurricane Hazel in 1954. It was designated under the Ontario Heritage Act in 1983.

BY DAVID WENCER



What is Osteopathic Treatment

Osteopathic Treatment is a way of detecting, treating and preventing health problems by moving, stretching and massaging a person’s muscles and joints. Osteopathic Treatment is based on the principle that the wellbeing of an individual depends on their bones, muscles, ligaments and connective tissue functioning smoothly together.

Osteopathy is a patient centred discipline, which means your treatment plan will be formulated for you as an individual, because symptoms sometimes show up in a different part of your body from where the problem actually is and there may be several factors contributing to the symptoms you experience.

Osteopaths use a gentle hands-on approach to investigate the underlying causes of pain and to administer treatment using a variety of manipulative techniques. This fundamental technique is called osteopathic palpation. 

Osteopathic palpation is what makes osteopathy different from other forms of therapy. Manual practitioners use it in the four major treatment techniques:

Soft Tissue Manipulation

The practitioner uses soft tissue manipulation in many different ways. In general, they use it to evaluate the condition of tissues and to help the body’s fluids (such as blood and lymphatic fluid) flow smoothly. Keeping fluids flowing smoothly reduces harmful fluid retention and makes the body’s immune system more effective.

Osteopathic Articular Technique 

Osteopathic Manual Practitioners use this technique to:

  • reduce muscle spasms near a joint
  • ease neurological irritations around a joint
  • make joints more mobile
  • reduce pain and discomfort

click is sometimes heard when the correction is made. This is nothing more than the synovial fluid moving through the joint.

The osteopathic articular technique is a very small component of osteopathy. Patients who do not want to have this (or any other) technique performed on them are encouraged to discuss their concerns with their practitioner. Osteopathic Manual Practitioners can use other methods to achieve similar results.

Cranial Osteopathy

This is the most gentle osteopathic technique, and it requires the most experience to use effectively. Osteopathic Manual Practitioners use this gentle technique to assess and treat the mobility of the skull and its contents. They may also use it to assess and treat the spine, the sacrum, and other parts of the body.

Visceral Manipulation

Osteopathic Manual Practitioners use visceral manipulation to treat organs and viscera of the body, including:

  • lungs
  • heart
  • liver
  • spleen
  • kidneys
  • stomach
  • pancreas
  • intestines
  • bladder
  • uterus

Clients may feel pain in one or more of these organs, or the viscera may be less pliable than it should be. Osteopathic Manual Practitioners gently move the structures themselves and the fascia (connective tissue) that surrounds them to restore full movement.

Most patients treated with visceral manipulation feel only gentle pressure of the osteopathic manual practitioner’s hand. But the corrections are powerful enough to improve the mobility of an organ, improve blood flow, and help the organ function more effectively.

Note: It is important that you speak with your medical doctor for the complete diagnosis of any medical condition.

Alex Zaslavsky has been a registered massage therapist since 2008. Alex’s introduction to manual haling practices/therapy started in his early teens, when he was actively involved in contact sports. Sports massage during and after wrestling workouts or competitions provided him with certain skills and enough confidence to treat athletes or anyone who wanted or needed massage treatments.

Several serious injuries which Alex suffered in the course of his wrestling career, made him retire from the sport. Alex needed to heal himself naturally, which he knew would take a long time. In the process of observing and participating in therapeutic sessions in which he happened to be a patient, months of recovery from his many injuries, knowledge of exercise, and patience, combining with his education as a Massage Therapist, gave him a valuable ability and knowledge in treating people with musculoskeletal injuries, pain or discomfort.

Besides Massage Therapist, Alex is also a Registered Acupuncturist, he teaches massage technique classes at Euro Training Center and now proud to say an Osteopathic Manual Treatment Practitioner at the Spa at Old Mill Toronto.



Romantic Winter Weddings

While winter is not the most popular season for weddings, we are seeing more couples create a romantic wedding during the starkness of winter. A winter wedding can be truly spectacular. Bright colours and twinkling lights add a cozy warmth, that can not be captured the same way at a summer wedding.

Keep in mind, when choosing a winter wedding location, the indoor space should be warm and inviting, making your guests feel at home. Wood-burning fireplaces and rooms with windows, so you can see the soft fall of snowflakes outside, and, the sun flooding your room with natural light adds a cozy warmth to your winter wedding. It is also a good idea to select a wedding venue that can accommodate everything you need in one location; ceremony, reception and overnight accommodations for your guests.

The ambience around a winter wedding is similar to the first snowfall of the season, it’s magical and very romantic. Make sure to highlight and maximize the winter elements in your decor; faux snow and Christmas twinkle lights add to a perfect winter wedding wonderland, incorporate this with natural components, such as frosted pinecones, pine leaves and snowflakes. 

A romantic winter wedding provides the perfect opportunity to serve wintry comfort foods. Try hearty dishes, like pasta, lasagna, a roast, casseroles, classic filet mignon, hearty greens and warm soups. Also, be fun and creative with the dessert course and set up a hot chocolate bar or s’mores bar. Serve creamy eggnog cocktails and spicy mulled wines, it’s a sweet and stylish way to celebrate the season.

There’s a new take on self-service candy bars that’s perfect for trendy winter weddings: an all-white candy spread. Think white M&Ms, yogurt-covered pretzels, white chocolate-covered cranberries, white-coated chocolate mints, nonpareils covered in white sprinkles, and various white Jelly Belly flavours. Self service candy bars can serve as both dessert and party favours.

Have a look at some winter wedding inspirations on pinterest.

Don forget to have fun creating a winter-themed wedding invitation. You can play up the uniqueness of your chosen wedding date by including snowy scenes, holiday themes, snowflakes or cozy fireside tableaux.

And, when it’s time to shop for your wedding dress begin your search by browsing dress photos online. Read up on silhouettes, necklines, trains and hues that might flatter you. The season will also affect your choice of material, brocade, faux fur and velvet will keep you warm in the winter, but, satin, shantung, silk and tulle are perfect year-round.

The entire wedding, from ceremony to reception, is guaranteed to make an impression in the memories of all your guests simply because it’s different from all of the spring and summer weddings they typically attend. Plus, your wedding will provide something to look forward to in the colder months.

Few Toronto wedding venues compare with the casual elegance and timeless style of our unique Old Mill Toronto, creating an unrivalled location for your special Wedding day.



What to give for a Wedding Gift

It’s that age-old question we all come across at some point, “How much do we give?” “Do we buy a gift?” “What do we get?, they have everything!”…

Figuring out how much to spend and what type of gift to give can be stressful, particularly if your generosity exceeds your budget.

First rule of thumb is to check if they have registered with a store. 98% of brides have at least one registry. These days, couples are statistically older and more established in their lives so when they register, they are truly asking for things that they need.

If items listed on the registry aren’t within your price range, consider giving a gift card to the store where the registry is listed. Think creatively if you can’t spend a lot of money, it’s not about the dollar amount you spend, it is the thought that counts most. They’re probably more concerned you can show up for their big day than they are with some pricey gift anyway. Small and simple things can have the most impact or value when linked to the day and couple, such as an engraved picture frame or other unique and creative wedding gifts.

If the couple registered for a big-ticket item that’s a little to much for one person to afford, why not consider a group gift. Couples love group gifts because they most likely can’t afford those luxuries on their own. Also consider a theme idea, with multiple gifts, or an overnight mini staycation with dinner or spa.

Wedding experts agree on a couple of things: the closer you are to the bride or groom, the more you are expected to give, and do not give more than you can afford just because of the expectations. It’s a bad idea to use the price-per-plate as a measure for how much you should spend on the wedding gift, the location and cost of the reception should not be the burden of the guest.

Give what ever you think is appropriate to your budget and your relationship with the couple but a ballpark guide would be… A distant relative or co-worker, $75-$100; a friend or relative, $100-$125; a closer relative, up to $150.

With regards to the Plus-One Status, you don’t need to double the amount if you’re double the guests, but you should multiply your base number by 1.5. (So if you generally don’t go lower than $100 when you’re solo, don’t go lower than $150 if you have a plus-one.)

You should never feel bad if travel costs impact your gift budget. If you’re spending money on travel and hotel to be there on their day, that is a huge contribution already. It is more important that you give within your means.

Whatever you decide to give, do so with thoughtfulness and affection, because you were invited to a special event where your presence is considered important.



Kalmar says goodbye to a ‘magical, beautiful place’

Old Mill Toronto owner Michael Kalmar says goodbye to ‘a magical, beautiful place’

Party held to celebrate outgoing president and VP; new owner Frank De Luca promises a ‘seamless transition’

Old Mill Toronto is under new management. A reception was held in former owner Michael Kalmar’s honour Thursday evening to celebrate his 24-year contribution to the Toronto landmark. He is pictured here, at left, with new owner, Frank De Luca, a long time Etobicoke resident.

Family, friends and colleagues gathered Wednesday evening at the Old Mill Toronto for a final farewell party to bid adieu to its president Michael Kalmar and VP of finance Blain Parsons after more than two decades owning and operating the century-old landmark.

The iconic restaurant, hotel and banquet complex on the bank of the Humber River has been sold to a property management group directed by Frank De Luca, a long-time Etobicoke resident.

There was lots of reminiscing at the reception, held in the Old Mill’s Guildhall Room, July 23, that featured none other than acrobatics, even a mime, who welcomed celebrants at the hotel’s front entrance.

Those closest to Kalmar wouldn’t expect anything less to celebrate a man who is described as the life of the party.

“It’s better than a wedding,” Kalmar quipped, “because I know everyone here.”

After partaking in appetizers and beverages, guests were treated to a trip down memory lane through stories shared by Kalmar and Parsons’ long time friends and coworkers, as well as Kalmar’s son.

Natalie Bauer, Old Mill Toronto’s director of marketing, communications and events, called Kalmar a “fabulous leader, an extraordinary person, who I think is quite awesome.”

“I’m sad because when I think of the Old Mill, I’ll think of you. You’re one of the best mentors I’ve ever had,” Bauer said.

Catering manager Helen Weech expressed her mock frustration at Kalmar’s departure.

“I was supposed to retire before you,” she pretended to scold.

Wheech recalled when her office was situated directly below Kalmar’s and all the times she had to bang on the ceiling because it sounded like he was having a party. At the podium, Weech told of Parsons’ John Travolta’s Saturday Night Fever impersonation, which garnered laughter from her audience.

Kalmar’s son, Lorne, took a turn behind the microphone to share memories and express gratitude and pride for his father.

“I grew up here, running around. We consider this a second home,” Lorne said of the Old Mill, standing beside his two sisters, Rachel and Alana. “Even if it took our dad away from us a bit, he made up for it with free buffet food.”

He added, “This is quite emotional. I’m so grateful for all you’ve done. I’m so proud of you, dad.”

The Old Mill’s heritage and its integrity will remain, vowed new owner De Luca, who celebrated Wednesday evening, but chose not to speak, making sure the spotlight remained on Karlmar and Parsons.

De Luca stressed the change of ownership will be a “seamless transition” in a statement.

Recalling his many years with the mill, Parsons said, “It’s been a rewarding and wonderful journey.”

“I can honestly say, every morning when I came in here, I felt refreshed, invigorated. It’s a magical, beautiful place,” he said.

Where does one begin when trying to say thank you and goodbye, mused Kalmar, as he expressed his appreciation for the Old Mill’s management and staff. Kalmar paid tribute to its founder, Robert Home Smith, and his predecessor William Hodgson. He didn’t get emotional until acknowledging his late father, George “GK” Kalmar, with whom he purchased the Old Mill, in 1991. The duo would go on to expand the Old Mill to include a spa and hotel.

By Lisa Rainford 



It’s Business As Usual

   

  It’s Business As Usual At The Historic Old Mill Toronto
Now Under New Ownership

After 24 years owning and operating the century-old landmark Old Mill Toronto, Lark Hospitality President Michael Kalmar has announced sale of the iconic restaurant, hotel and banquet complex to a respected asset and property management group directed by Frank De Luca, long-time resident of Etobicoke.

Expressing mixed emotions at now “ending this chapter in the century-long ancestry of the Old Mill Toronto”, Kalmar cited “three distinctive elements functioning in harmonious collaboration over the past hundred years to bring this cherished aspect of our city’s cultural life to the international prominence it enjoys today:

“At the forefront were the visionaries, risk-takers, and entrepreneurs who guided growth and transformation of the ever- evolving complex throughout its existence – founder Robert Home Smith, followed by the dynamic William Hodgson, and latterly, George and Michael Kalmar, the father/son team who orchestrated the addition of a boutique hotel and spa in 2001, and established the Home Smith Bar which has become one of the city’s most popular jazz venues.

“Of primary importance, too, has been the generations of dedicated staff who have personified the value and importance of customer service as a guiding principle of Old Mill policies from our earliest beginnings.  And our loyal customers, a multi-generational roster who have enjoyed, and helped create the century of memorable experiences that enrich our history.”

Commenting on acquisition of the Old Mill Toronto and plans for its continuing operations,  principal Frank De Luca affirmed that it will be a “seamless transition”.  It will continue to be operated with respect for the establishment’s colorful heritage and a commitment to maintaining  the integrity of its current standing in the local, national, and global communities.  The vision for the future will reflect its celebrated history as a centre for the community.

For The Old Mill Toronto, contact:

Natalie Bauer – natalie.bauer@oldmilltoronto.ca      

Adam De Luca – adam.deluca@oldmilltoronto.ca



Let It Be GREEN

Let it be, let it be
Let it be, let it be
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be

Hotel guests of today are far more likely to be concerned about environmental issues such as recycling bottles, cans and paper at home as well as making greener lifestyle choices, such as organic food or fuel-efficient vehicles. As such, traveller’s today are concerned if their hotel is committed to environmental sustainability because travelling for leisure or business doesn’t mean we have to leave our green habits at home.

A “GREEN” hotel is an environmentally friendly property that take the initiative to implement very important practices and programs to reduce energy, water and waste. Hotels use an enormous amount of energy, collect an enormous amount of waste, and use a tremendous amount of water, it’s important that hotels embrace going GREEN and reduce the impact on our planet.

Ideas for going GREEN

Install thermostats & heating/air conditioning controllers in each room

Use non-toxic, earth friendly cleaning agents

Start a linen, towels and sheets, reuse program in all guest rooms

Implement fluorescent lighting. Use sensors /timers in frequently used areas

Switch to low flow toilets

Use low flow shower heads in guest rooms

Provide guests with bicycles, walking maps, information on public transportation

Apply window tint/film to reduce heating and air-conditioning demands in rooms

Educate staff & guests about going GREEN with brochures or signs for guests to follow

Use bulk soaps and toiletries (refillable dispensers)

Recycling baskets in all guest rooms, recycling bins in all public areas & back of house

Purchase Local Products 

Reduce food waste disposal

Implementing programs that involve management, employees, guests and the public to teach and encourage them to protect the environment and keep energy consumption to a minimum, hotels should create a ‘green team’ with the goal of continual improvement and scheduled re-evaluation and reporting.

The Old Mill Toronto has shown national industry leadership and commitment to protecting the environment through wide ranging policies & practices. We participate with the Green Key Eco-Rating program which is a rating system designed to recognize hotels for improving their environmental performance.



Valentine’s Day

Every year on February 14th, we exchange cards, candy, gifts or flowers with our special “valentine” all in the name of St. Valentine. But who is this mysterious saint and where did this tradition come from.

The day of romance we call Valentine’s Day is named for a Christian martyr and dates back to the 5th century, but has origins in the ancient Roman holiday Lupercalia, where young men randomly chose the name of a young girl to escort to the festivities. Pope Gelasius I recast this pagan festival as a Christian feast day circa 496, declaring February 14 to be St. Valentine’s Day.

The Catholic Church recognizes at least three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus, all of whom were martyred. One legend contends that Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome. When Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, he outlawed marriage for young men. Valentine, realizing the injustice of the decree, defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. When Valentine’s actions were discovered, Claudius ordered that he be put to death.

Another legend has it that Valentine, imprisoned by Claudius, fell in love with the daughter of his jailer. Before he was executed, he allegedly sent her a letter signed “from your Valentine.” an expression that is still in use today. Although the truth behind the Valentine legends is murky, the stories all emphasize his appeal as a sympathetic, heroic and–most importantly–romantic figure.

In addition to the United States, Valentine’s Day is celebrated in Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, France and Australia. In Great Britain, Valentine’s Day began to be popularly celebrated around the 17th century. By the middle of the 18th, it was common for friends and lovers of all social classes to exchange small tokens of affection or handwritten notes. 

In the 1840s, Esther A. Howland began selling the first mass-produced valentines in America. Howland, known as the “Mother of the Valentine,” made elaborate creations with real lace, ribbons and colorful pictures known as “scrap.” Today, according to the Greeting Card Association, an estimated 1 billion Valentine’s Day cards are sent each year, making Valentine’s Day the second largest card-sending holiday of the year.

This year why not make a special hand-made Valentines Day Card for your Valentine.