Swallows are birds that, despite their small size, travel thousands of kilometres to nest. Every year, following an instinct, they fly from North Africa to Portugal and stay until the end of summer. This little flying animal is very dear to the Portuguese because they are the prelude to spring and good weather.
They are birds associated not only with good weather, but with home. Due to its ability to raise its offspring, the Portuguese see this bird as an example of all that the best nature can bring.
The passion is such that the Portuguese hang replicas of flocks of swallows on the walls of their houses as a sign of calm.
This national connection to this black-winged bird is due to Rafael Bordalo Pinheiro who, at the end of the 19th century, produced small ceramic swallows at his factory in Caldas da Rainha and which he himself had designed.
It was he who in 1891 hung ceramic swallows on the telephone wires that decorate the wonderful Tabacaria Mónaco, even today at Rossio in Lisbon (and looking up, on the ceiling, there is also a flock of them painted flying). They spread happily throughout the country throughout the 20th century. Swallows are said to be symbols of love and loyalty, but also of home and family, feelings that are well rooted in Portuguese culture. After long-haul flights looking for milder climates, swallows build their nest in the same place year after year. They are also creatures that, throughout their lives, have a single partner.
Embedded in such meaning, the ceramic swallows of Bordalo Pinheiro and other representations of this bird are commonly exchanged between people in love, enhancing their connotation with feelings of love, loyalty, home and family.
They are also the meaning of harmony and happiness in the homes where they are hung.