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The history of the Love Handkerchiefs began in the 17th century. They were embroidered with geometric motifs by the aristocratic ladies using only two different colours: red and black.
Later on girls from other not so educated social classes, began to make them too, but in an easier way: the motifs and the technique of the embroidery were not so difficult, the colours were all there instead of only red and black and there was always a love poem not correctly written, whose mistakes were related to the spoken language of the North of Portugal.
The Love Handkerchief was offered by the girl who embroidered it to the boy she loved. If he accepted it that meant they were engaged from then on. He should always wear it around his neck or on his jacket during balls or feasts, so that the other girls knew he was no longer free. If the engagement was broken, which sometimes happened, then the Love Handkerchief had to return to the girl who had made it.
Rosa Lopes (born in 1969 in Vila Verde, the homeland of the Love Handkerchiefs), is the woman who nowadays continues this folk tradition making new copies of the old ones. The quality of her work is so high that she was chosen to make a special one to be offered to Pope John Paul II when he visited Fátima in 1991. That is also the reason why only Love Handkerchiefs embroidered by her can be found in Santos Ofícios, the only shop in Lisbon where her work is available.
Saint Stephen's Feast in Ousilhão (Trás-os-Montes)
25th and 26th of December
Celebrations start on Christmas Day, in the evening, with a round of "Boas Festas" ("the good wishes for the feast"), a tradition that consists of visiting every neighbour of the area. On Saint Stephen's Day, December 26th, in the morning, there is a "Ronda das Alvoradas" (a very early procession, similar to the one that took place the day before). Once the ritual finishes, at noon, Mass is celebrated to honour the Saint, in the presence of the whole village but for masked actors. During the liturgy, the bread is blessed. In the afternoon, the "mesa de Santo Estevão", the ritual of Saint Stephen's Table, takes place during which the transfer of powers, from the outgoing steward, to those that are starting their functions, the succeeding stewards. Finally, the whole village in procession takes the main actors in an oxen cart to the home of the new leaders, where they eat, drink and dance in a festive atmosphere.
Celebrations finish at night, with the traditional dance called "galhofa", exclusive of this celebration.
Carnival in Ousilhão (Trás-os-Montes)
The "masked" that once livened the Saint Stephen's festivity, come out on Sunday and Carnival.
During the afternoon, the Saint Stephen's table was organized outdoors. Each neighbour took their gifts and products from the land for the community's come together. During this ritual the priest celebrates the handing over of the powers of the retiring authorities to those who are going to start their functions. The "masked" or "caretos" had a more rebelled role, covering all the village's streets and carrying out their usual mischievousness.
The day ended with the so-called "galhofa" (fights) and a traditional ball.
Their rituals are the same as those done before. The "caretos" continue to cover the whole village tormenting the roamers, with the intention to punish them with their walking sticks and cowbells, doing all types of animosities, according to each ones will and imagination.
Normally, they perform in small groups, dispersed in various areas that end up seizing the whole village searching for their victims, single ladies, and for the village's amusement.