Valentine’s handkerchief is a handkerchief made from a fine linen cloth or cotton scarf, embroidered with various motifs. It is a piece of handicraft and clothing typical of Minho, being used by women of marriageable age. It was customary for the girl in love to embroider her handkerchief and hand it over to her lover when he went away. In the handkerchiefs could have embroidered verses, besides several designs, some standardized, having their own symbologies.
It was used as a ritual of conquest. Once made, the handkerchief would eventually come to the possession of the beloved man, who would use it in public as a way of showing that he had begun a relationship. If the boyfriend (also called conversado) did not use the handkerchief publicly it was a sign that he had decided not to initiate the amorous connection.
It is probable that the origin of the Valentine Scarves, also known as Handkerchiefs of Orders, is intimately linked to the seventeenth – and eighteenth – century gentleman ‘s handkerchiefs, which were later adapted by the women of the people, and consequently acquired a more popular aspect.