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    Since it's autumn and the season of pumpkins, I think now's a good time for this story…

    "Pumpkin" (harbuz) in Ukraine does not mean Halloween. It Means Shame for Men.

    Source: NPR.org

    Think jack-o'-lanterns are frightening? Try being a man in Ukraine. Then you'll truly understand what it's like to fear a pumpkin.

    For centuries in the Eastern European nation, a pumpkin meant one thing: No, I won't marry you.

    An old tradition held that a would-be suitor would visit a woman's house to propose. If the answer was yes, there was family toasting and celebration. If no, the poor guy was silently handed a pumpkin.

    Volodymir Yantsur, a tour guide in the western city of Lviv, Ukraine, dates the tradition to medieval times and says many Ukrainian men would only propose at night so they wouldn't be seen with a pumpkin in their hands if rejected.

    Uncertain Origins

    Why a pumpkin? As vegetables go, pumpkins are not the prettiest. And maybe that was the message for the boyfriend. Or, Yantsur says, there's this: "Some Ukrainian cookbooks suggest pumpkins are a healthy vegetable. Some even say it's good for a man's virility."

    Perhaps a woman was trying to tell a man that he might want to think about using some pumpkin.

    [IMG]http://imageshack.us/a/img96/2329/9srz.jpg”/>
    Volodymir Yantsur is a tour guide in Lviv, Ukraine. He says the tradition of women using pumpkins to refuse would-be suitors is centuries old and has all but faded away. But Ukrainians still use the word harbuz, or pumpkin, in casual conversation to make clear they are refusing something.
    David Greene/NPR

    The tradition as a marriage ritual has died away. But even today, Ukrainians may use a pumpkin — or harbuz in Ukrainian — in conversation. If you say no thanks to a business deal, you might say, "I just have to hand you a pumpkin on that one."

    Want to protest the president's visit? Just hold up a pumpkin — that means you want him to get lost.

    And 30-year-old Volodymera Golovach confirmed that pumpkins still play a part in Ukrainian romance.

    Golovach, who sells chicken at a Lviv market, recalls a love-struck young man who kept begging her for a date several years ago. He wouldn't take no for an answer. It was time.

    She threatened to serve up a pumpkin.

    Then "he would understand that he didn't have any chance or hope," she says. "It was sort of a joke. [But] he didn't like it."

    He also never called again.

    Not All Bad News

    There are Ukrainians who like pumpkins, like Maria Soroka, who's 71. And when shown a pumpkin, she bursts into song.

    "The pumpkin walks around the vegetable garden, asking its family, 'Are you safe and sound?' " she sang, entertaining passers-by on a sidewalk. "The pumpkin's wife, a yellow melon, says, 'We are all safe and sound!' "

    Sweet old folk tune, yes. But if you're a single guy in Ukraine and your girlfriend starts humming this tune, take the hint.

    ********************************************************************************************************************************

    Interview on Soundcloud with Volodymir Yantsur
    https://soundcloud.com/omega711/20101029_me_19

    Transcript of Interview

    MARY LOUISE KELLY, host:

    Now a postcard about pumpkins. This Halloween season, NPR's David Greene is on a reporting trip in the Eastern European nation of Ukraine. And there for centuries, pumpkins have played a curious role: They were a woman's way of saying no.

    DAVID GREENE: As in: No, I won't marry you. And if that was a Ukrainian woman's answer to a marriage proposal, she didn't even need to say it. Everyone knew the tradition. All she had to do was hand the poor guy a pumpkin.

    The Ukrainian word for pumpkin is harbuz.

    Mr. VOLODYMIR YANTSUR (Tour Guide, L'viv): (Foreign language spoken)

    GREENE: Volodymir Yantsur is a tour guide in L'viv, a city in western Ukraine, and he said this tradition began back in medieval times. It got so bad, many men would only propose at night so they wouldn't be seen with a pumpkin in their hands, if they were rejected.

    Why a pumpkin? Well, as vegetables go, pumpkins aren't the prettiest. And maybe that's the message for the boyfriend. Or, Yantsur said, there's this.

    Mr. YANTSUR: (Foreign language spoken)

    GREENE: Some Ukrainian cookbooks, he said, suggest pumpkins are a healthy vegetable. Some even say it's good for a man's virility. Perhaps a woman was trying to tell a man: You might want to think about using some pumpkin.

    The tradition has died away over the years, but even today, Ukrainians use harbuz, or pumpkin, in their conversations. If you say no thanks to a business deal, you might say, I just have to hand you a pumpkin on that one. You want to protest the president's visit? Well, just hold up a pumpkin. That means you want him to get lost.

    Ms. VOLODYMERA GOLOVACK (Vendor): (Foreign language spoken)

    GREENE: Thirty-year-old Volodymera Golovack was selling chicken at a market when I asked her if pumpkins still play a part in Ukrainian romance. This is when she brought up this young man who was begging her for a date a couple years ago. He just wouldn't take no for an answer.

    Ms. GOLOVACK: (Foreign language spoken)

    GREENE: Yes, she threatened to serve him a pumpkin. Then, he would understand that he didn't have any chance or hope, she said. It was sort of a joke, she added. But he didn't like it. And he also never called again.

    There are Ukrainians who really like pumpkins. I met Maria Soroka, who's 71, sweeping leaves outside a church. And when I showed her a pumpkin, she burst into song.

    Ms. MARIA SOROKA: (Singing in foreign language)

    GREENE: It's a sweet, old folk tune about a pumpkin, wandering the vegetable garden searching for his relatives. But if you're a single guy in Ukraine and your girlfriend starts singing this, I would take the hint.

    Ms. SOROKA: (Singing foreign language)

    GREENE: Happy Halloween from L'viv, Ukraine. I'm David Greene, NPR News.

    (Soundbite of music)

    KELLY: That's the Halloween edition of MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Mary Louise Kelly.

    STEVE INSKEEP, host:

    And I'm Steve Inskeep.

    *******************************************************************************************************************************
    Additional Notes

    This is a very old tradition – back from medieval times or even older. When a Ukrainian guy wanted to marry a girl, he didn't buy her a ring and he didn't ask her somewhere in a romantic place, “Will you marry me?” No, he had to find two special people (from his relatives or friends) and he went with these people to the house of the girl or woman that he wanted to marry and a different method was employed to ask her hand in marriage. Ukrainians called these two special people Starosty or Svaty. Starosty had to be wise people and preferably with a good sense of humor, because they had to make a special speech to the parents of the future bride. Usually Starosty (Svaty) were chosen from men, and not very often from women.

    So, Starosty and the potential fiancé came to the girl’s parents and gave the special speech. In the end of this speech they asked the parents to allow their daughter to be a wife of this young man. The parents usually answered, “We need to ask the opinion of our daughter, to find out what does she thinks”. And the next event was very important! If the the girl stayed silent, and if she wanted to marry this man, she tied a ceremonial embroidered towel over the shoulder of each of the Starosty. She also tied a nice shawl on the hand of the young man. All these actions mean just one word, “Yes!”

    ***

    But if the answer was “No”, then the Starosty got nothing and the young man received a pumpkin from the girl! This was her way of saying she did not want to marry the man.

    In the old days, it was a shame for a Ukrainian man to get a pumpkin instead of a shawl. In the people’s opinion, he was not a very good match if a girl didn't want to marry him, especially if he got more pumpkins from other girls.

    Parents who had very pretty daughters needed to have a lot of pumpkins, because a pretty girl had many offers of marriage. People often joked to the parents of  girls, “Oh, you will need to grow a big garden of pumpkins!”

    This Ukrainian tradition (to give a pumpkin to the loser guys) is almost gone in today’s times. So if a modern Ukrainian boy proposes marriage to a girl, he usually buys her a ring as is done in the rest of the world. But the saying “to get a pumpkin” is still very popular in Ukraine. This phrase usually means that somebody has said “no” to you in a very important business matter. Also, if Ukrainians say this about a guy, “He got a pumpkin from his girlfriend,” it means the same as it did several centuries ago: “She didn't want to marry him."

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