Lenços dos Namorados (Couple’s handkerchiefs)*

Lenço dos namorados: Portuguese Love Tradition*

The sentence you have on your ornaments is: The friendship of a girl friend is worth it more than anything in life.

The most agreed version states that the first handkerchiefs, initially embroidered in black and red only, were created by low class women, trying to reproduce others, common amongst the nobles. Coming into life in the mid 20th century, when, in rural areas, some men, aged to be married, started to use them as adornments (probably a gift from their beloved).

There’s also a legend about the love a girl felt for a boy and, since he did not make a move, she decided to show her feelings in needlework.

Out of which a relationship of a lifetime love was born.

It is not set in stone that the main function of the first handkerchiefs embroidered like these was to be a declaration of love. Such romantic side might have come up later.

When a man used an handkerchief it meant that yes has been already said and the relationship official, modern days engagement.

Given by the woman, not the man.

Nonetheless, some older embroiderer already said they never did a single handkerchief to get a man.

Why did they do them, then?

Basically because the black and red handkerchiefs started to have people to buy them. Which added up to the paycheck at the end of the month, of the women from Minho (my dad’s region).

The commercialization of the handkerchiefs surpassed all the romanticism they had in the past.

The handkerchiefs we see everywhere in souvenirs shops in historic districts all over Portugal have little to do with the ones firstly embroidered to the men from Minho. Are no longer made in cross stitch also, preferring a simpler embroidery, and linen was replaced by cotton.

The colours made the handkerchiefs unique.

It is also not set in stone that the first handkerchiefs had the famous rhymes we can read on them today. They could have a sentence, on a spiral, with spelling mistakes, given the illiteracy of the embroiderer, in a childish handwriting. Today, even knowing how to spell, the embroiderers pretend to be illiterate and misspell voluntarily, because that’s what sells.

Handkerchiefs from Minho or Vila Verde handkerchiefs?

Minho is a mixture of colours. The handkerchiefs, a product of Minho, are nowadays very attached to Vila Verde district.

(I learnt how to swim and how to float in Cavado river. And my father taught me how to ride a bicycle just on the banks of the river. Vila Verde is where my father used to spend the summer with his family, as a young man.

*Partial translation of this article of which both original version and images posted here they have copyright. You can use the English version if you like, as long as you link it to me.

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