Valentine’s Scarves from Portugal

Embroidered scarves in rural Portugal were a sort of love letter from young women to the objects of their affection.

Lencos dos Namorados (Valentine’s Scarves) for sale (photo: Brent Petersen)

In the 19th century, local women in and around the small northern Portuguese city of Viana do Castelo began the custom of embroidering kerchiefs called Lencos dos Namorados. Translated to Valentine’s Scarves, they were worn by women of marrying age. The scarves’ embroidery was often in the form or a love letter with verses and hearts showing the woman’s affection and commitment. She would give the scarf to a potential suitor who would wear it publicly to show that he returned the woman’s love. However, if the man did not share these feelings, he would return the Valentine Scarf to the woman, leaving her heartbroken.

Today, original Lencos dos Namorados from 200 years ago are valuable cultural artifacts. Shops in Viana do Castelo are filled with newly made hand (and machine) embroidered Valentine’s Scarves. Some quality made examples retail for hundreds of Euros.

Because the rural woman of this area were often illiterate in the 19th century, many of these scarves had grammatical errors. When the scarves are reproduced today, the grammatical errors are kept to preserve their historical accuracy.

About the Author

Brent Petersen is the Editor-in-Chief of Destination Eat Drink. He currently resides in Setubal, Portugal. Brent has written the novel “Truffle Hunt” (Eckhartz Press) and the short story collection “That Bird.” He’s also written dozens of foodie travel guides to cities around the world on Destination Eat Drink, including in-depth eating and drinking guides in Portugal to Lisbon, PortoSintraÉvoraBraga, Loulé, Almada, Monsaraz, and Batalha. Brent’s podcast, also called Destination Eat Drink, is available on all major podcasting platforms.

Author: Brent