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A Portuguese Lovers’ Tradition

Município de Vila Verde CC BY-NC-ND

Sweetheart Handkerchiefs or Fiancé Handkerchief are handkerchiefs made of linen or cotton and embroidered with several love patterns and amorous phrases. These pieces are typical clothing accesories from Minho and were used by young single women who would embroider sweet messages to their boyfriends who were sent off to sea or war to the former colonies.

Young women would embroider the handkerchiefs in code using symbols like a rose; meaning woman; a heart for love; a lily meaning virginity; a red carnation expressed flirtation and provocation and doves were the symbol of a couple in love.

Also known as “Lenços de Pedidos”, “Lenços dos Namorados” are closely related with the 17th and 18th centuries Nobility handkerchiefs. Later, they were adapted by the general female population becoming more widely used. Common folks would write like they spoke which would produce charming spelling mistakess.

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