The frightening pumpkin tradition in Ukraine

Anush Yepremyan

Pumpkins are so popular in the United States of America when Halloween knocks on your door. My story will change your whole perception about pumpkins. You will understand why males in Ukraine associate different things with pumpkins. One thing for sure, it is not appreciated to own pumpkins. I will tell you even more: they are ashamed to receive a pumpkin. Why?

It comes from medieval times, when a Ukrainian person wanted to marry a girl, he had to visit the house of the girl and make an impression on both parents and the girl. He also had to bring two closest people with him, preferably with a good sense of humor, because they would help him to impress future wife and her parents. At the end, those two “helpers” have to ask if the parents would approve the potential fiancé, but the girl makes the final decision.

Here comes the hump. If the girl handed a special crochet towel to those two people, and tied a ribbon on the wrist of a young fellow – it meant “yes.” Notice, no words are being exchanged. Here they say, “Less words, more actions.”

Now, if the answer was “no,” are you ready for this? Two “helpers” were not to receive anything, and the guy would receive a pumpkin. It was the girl’s way to refuse the proposal, and say she did not want to link her life with the man.

Back at that time, it was a shame for a Ukrainian guy to receive a pumpkin. People would think that he had a bad reputation if the girl did not want to marry him. However, if he already owned a collection of pumpkins, received from other girls, one can only feel pity for the guy and pat his shoulder.

If a family was known for having good-looking daughter(s), they had better stocked up a lot of pumpkins since their girl(s) would get a lot of guys proposing to them.

Nowadays, this tradition is forgotten. Men have to be more creative to earn one’s heart. Usually, a man buys a ring and takes a woman to a romantic place, gets down on his knee and says those, long awaited for some, words “Will you marry me?”

However, the phrase itself, “receive a pumpkin” is still popular in Ukraine. It means that somebody was rejected in something that was important, whether it was a business or relationship matter. Sometimes, guys can tease their comrades by saying that their girlfriend gave them a pumpkin, which means they got rejected, just like centuries ago.

Halloween is not a traditional celebration in Ukraine. Only few years ago, the younger generation adopted the holiday just for the sake of the Halloween costume extravaganza. For that reason, you should be careful with pumpkins in order not to put yourself in an uncomfortable situation in other places.

As for me, I really like Halloween, and pumpkins for that matter. It is full of creativity and fun. It gives you the taste of the true American culture!

Happy upcoming Halloween!