Lenços dos Namorados – Portuguese Sweetheart Handkerchiefs
Happy Valentine’s Day
Hundreds of years ago, young women of marring age began making “Lenços dos Namorados” – Sweetheart Handkerchiefs, to show love for their sweethearts.
They were made of linen or cotton and embroidered with several romantic and love-related motifs with flowers, birds, hearts, and verses from love poems.
The motifs meant; a rose = woman; a heart = love; a lily = virginity; a red carnation = some provocation; and doves = the symbol of the couple in love.
This handcraft was a typical clothing used by young women looking for love in the Minho province of Northwestern Portugal.
The handkerchiefs have their origin in the 17th century, when they were used among the Portuguese nobility as “marriage proposal handkerchiefs,” but later became popular as a way to start dating someone. Young girls at that time learned embroidery at an early age and later used these techniques to show their admiration for their loves.
These young women would often embroider a handkerchief and give it to their sweetheart as a sign of their love just before he would leave on a sea journey to the former colonial provinces. The men would then wear the handkerchief in public to show everyone they were in a committed relationship.
Today, the craft is a regional certified handcraft where a committee evaluates the handkerchiefs strict criteria including the motifs, the threads, size and colors. If it meets their requirements, they certify it as an approved handicraft.