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Why Boyfriends Fear Pumpkins

When a man asks his beloved’s family for permission to marry, if the parents answer, “yes,” there a a celebration. That’s the same in the Ukraine. However, if the answer from the parents is a no, then he might be leaving their house with a pumpkin. Read on to find out more!

Hey John!

I told my Ukrainian friend, Artem, that I planned to ask my girlfriend’s parents for her hand in marriage.

He snickered. Then he said snidely, “I hope you don’t come back with a pumpkin!”

Whaaat? What did he mean?

–Cameron the Very Confused in Canby

Wedding rings hanging together on a branch

Hey Cameron!

Artem is referring to an old Ukrainian custom when a beau asks his girlfriend’s parents for her hand in marriage.

Let me explain: 

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 and in other nations, when the parents answered “yes” to the man’s request, the customary response involved plenty of celebrations and toasting.

Happy engaged couple embraces

But if the answer was “no”…dun dun dun! 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 a pumpkin.


Yep, a pumpkin. 

Her parents silently handed him a pumpkin; the dejected suitor would   

slink back to his home, there to drown his sorrows in one libation or another.

sad man holding his face in his hands

Because the stigma of getting the pumpkin instead of the woman 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 could slink through town when fewer people saw him and thus limit his embarrassment. 

Multi-colored pumpkins

While parents rarely pass out pumpkins any longer, the Ukrainian word “harbuz,” which means “pumpkin,” is still used in conversation to declare that the speaker is refusing what was recently proposed by the other speaker.  

Your friend in the wedding business,




Source: NPR

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