With Halloween less than two weeks away, many Westerners are visiting 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!
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, and villagers jokingly told parents with beautiful daughters that they needed to grow large pumpkin patches 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.
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