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The Pumpkin: Ukraine's Traditional Symbol of Romantic Rejection

8. October 2012 by Dasha 0 Comments

October is upon us and with it comes the traditional symbols of Halloween: ghosts, witches, black cats, and of course, pumpkins. However, while most Westerners see pumpkins as nothing more than a harmless Halloween decoration, in Ukraine pumpkins have a very different meaning.

For centuries, Ukrainian women rejected unwanted proposals by handing unlucky suitors a pumpkin, or harbuz. Ukrainian folklore speaks of families with many daughters growing large pumpkin patches to prepare for unwanted proposals, and fearful suitors proposing at night lest villagers see them carrying a pumpkin. It’s unclear how pumpkins came to symbolize romantic rejection, but the vegetables’ unsightly appearance might to be blame. Many Ukrainian cookbooks also suggest pumpkins are good for a man’s virility, so perhaps the pumpkin-wielding maidens were holding out for rugged, strapping young men. 

Though Ukrainian women no longer rely on pumpkins to deliver bad news, they may still speak of giving one to a particularly aggressive suitor. If a woman threatens you with a pumpkin, it might be time to back off or give up your romantic pursuit.

Many women on HRB pose with apples or leaves when taking Fall pics, but you’re unlikely to see a lady holding a pumpkin. If you do, she might be trying to tell you something.