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The Ultimate Kiss-Off: A Man Being Handed a Pumpkin

Since it’s Halloween (where has the year gone!?), let’s talk about pumpkins!

The tradition of carving pumpkins has its roots in the Celtic festival of Samhain which took place in ancient Britain and Ireland. It was a celebration marking the end of summer and the start of the new year on November 1. It was believed that the souls of people who died that year would come back home to visit, so people lit bonfires, wore costumes, and carved faces in turnips (and later pumpkins) to ward off any evil spirits.

Enough about that…did you know there is a link between pumpkins and marriage tradition? Read on to learn all about it!

In many cultures, the man asks his beloved’s family for her hand in marriage or permission to marry her. That’s not unusual and a very respectful act by the hopeful groom-to-be.

In the Ukraine as in other cultures, when the parents answered “yes” to the man’s request, the customary response involved plenty of celebration and toasting.

But if the answer was “no”….the Ukrainians had a custom for that too!

Dating back to medieval times, the Ukrainians developed a unique tradition: If the parents did not approve of the suitor’s request to marry their cherished daughter, the parents would hand the man the ultimate kiss-off: a pumpkin.

Yep, a pumpkin.

Instead of verbally responding, her parents silently handed him a pumpkin; the dejected suitor would slink back to his home, there to cry and/or drown his sorrows in one libation or another. 

Because the stigma of getting the pumpkin instead of the gal was so significant, a Ukrainian man preferred to go to the house of his beloved’s parents at night to ask for her hand in marriage. That way if the answer were “no,” he would skulk through town when fewer people saw him and thus limit his embarrassment.

While this custom is no longer used, the word for “pumpkin” has developed an entirely new use: The Ukrainian word, “harbuz,” which means “pumpkin,” is still used in conversation to declare that the speaker is refusing something.

Source: NPR

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