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Gentlemen, Beware of the Pumpkin!

18. October 2011 by Christy 0 Comments

With Halloween less than two weeks away, many Westerners are taking their children to pumpkin patches and decorating their homes with spooky jack-o’-lanterns and seasonal centerpieces. However, the pumpkin, a harmless symbol of Halloween in the West, means something very different in Eastern Europe – rejection!


Pumpkins in Ukrainian Culture

For centuries, Ukrainian women rejected unwelcome wedding proposals by presenting suitors with a harbuz, or pumpkin. Some gentlemen were so fearful of public humiliation that they took to proposing at night to avoid being seen with a pumpkin in their hands. Villagers jokingly told parents with beautiful daughters that they needed to grow a large garden full of pumpkins to fend off hopeful suitors.

Though it isn’t clear how pumpkins became synonymous with romantic rejection, some believe the answer lies in a pumpkin’s less than perfect appearance. Volodymir Yantsur, a tour guide in the western city of Lviv, suggests pumpkins might be a poke at a suitor’s manhood as many cookbooks suggest pumpkins are good for a man’s virility.


Pumpkins Today

While Ukrainian women no longer rely on pumpkins to deliver bad news, the orange vegetable is still a symbol of rejection. According to NPR, Ukrainians might pass on a business deal by saying “I just have to hand you a pumpkin on that one.” Displeased citizens might also protest the president’s visit by holding a pumpkin in the air. If a woman tells a particularly aggressive suitor she’s going to hand him a pumpkin the man is to understand that there’s no absolutely no chance of a date and to stop asking.

So gentlemen, if a Ukrainian woman sends you a photo of a pumpkin or gives with a pumpkin during a visit, beware! She may be trying to tell you she isn’t interested.

Sources: NPR, TravelWestUkraine