Expat Dilemma – You’re going to do What With a Pumpkin?

carved tomato, tomatoe, tomato for halloween, can you carve a tomato, halloween in italy, how to italians celebrate halloween, why are their no pumpkins in Italy, why are there no jack o lanterns in italy, do italians celebrate halloween

In Italy and Europe in general, North Americans are famous for our ability to….well…be wasteful.


I’ve written before about how Hallowe’en doesn’t really exist in Italy but IT IS CHANGING!  This year I am noticing a surprising number of events big and small for the whole family.  For the first time we are going to go out tonight in the centre of Modena to trick or treat!   Apparently there will be shops handing out candy, so again I’ve made DIY costumes for the three of us (last year we were a sheriff and robbers and the year before we were the Rubbles) and we are heading out!



For the last few years I’ve thrown wild and elaborate Hallowe’en parties in my home or in rented spaces.  I went crazy with as many “traditional” Hallowe’en decorations and games as I could manage. A wrote a post last year if you want to see my decorations and costumes!  As I started saying we North Americans are seen by Italians as being rather self-indulgent and wasteful, especially when it comes to Halloween (or any commercial holiday for that matter!)



Two years ago I threw a party in my home and had everyone play the “mummy game” where you turn your partner into a mummy!! The reaction?

“And waste all of that toilette paper?”


I created the game where you put your hand in various bowls of “guts”, “eye balls” and “brains”, the reaction?

“This is Gross and Fun!! But are you just going to throw this all out now?”


Italians are horrified by the idea of something so temporary as a one night celebration and party and really do see the idea of wasting food, money, energy and stuff as a problem.


Let’s Talk Jack o Lanterns

Take Jack o Lanterns for example.  They hardly exist here.  Sure you’ll find one or two at a special event.  BUT YOU WILL NOT FIND ONE ON EVERY DOOR STEP!  Or in Italy’s case, balcony window!


To take a perfectly good pumpkin, carve out it’s middle, keep in out for the night and put a candle in it is just, well, wasting a pumpkin!  I usually respond with “but it’s FUN!”, “It’s TRADITION!” “It’s HALLOWEEN!!”, and I’m met with blank stares and a shoulder shrug, they just don’t get it!


This is a country that has very deep rooted culinary traditions, and lest I forget that these people have also experienced the Second World War and are not quite over what that meant.  In fact, you’ll often hear the grandparents talking about the long years where you would never see a stray cat on the road….wonder where they went?!


Pumpkins are food.


I called my husband and I asked him to bring home a pumpkin for me and my two and a half year old to carve. He went from fruit stall to grocery store and came home an hour later with two small Mantovan Squashes.  Apparently this year the orange pumpkin variety had a bad harvest so there are few, and they aren’t tasty like the other types of squashes found in Italy so there is little request!


Found on http://lacucinadicla.blogspot.it/2012/10/risotto-di-zucca-mantovana-nella-zucca.html  "Zucca Mantovana" - "Zucca di Castellazzo Bormida"

Found on http://lacucinadicla.blogspot.it/2012/10/risotto-di-zucca-mantovana-nella-zucca.html
“Zucca Mantovana” – “Zucca di Castellazzo Bormida”


This is the land of the ZUCCA, the word Zucca generally refers to all squash, but traditionally the YUMMIEST for making tortelloni di zucca, pumpkin filled tortelloni that you eat with ragù (meat and tomato sauce) is the Zucca Mantovana – Mantovan Squash.  Mantova is where you will find the most delicious recipes and traditions for squash including risotto, tortelloni and even many desserts and cookies, their motto “non si butta niente”, nothing wasted.


So here I am this year with these two delicious Mantovan squashes (my favourites for roasting and making layered lasagna and soups!) and I decide NOT TO CARVE THEM!  It would be a waste, they are just too delicious!


I am becoming one of them!



i’m reminded of my very first hallowe’en with Marco in our apartment in Bologna.  I didn’t have a pumpkin but I did have a tomato, so i carved that.  And you know what?  It worked out just fine!


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Here is my carved tomato next to a bottle of olive oil! See how it glows?!



Happy Hallowe’en to everyone, may your bags be filled with yummy treats and may your yards be filled with decorations to strike fear into the hearts of unsuspecting trick or treaters!!



I’ve linked this up with My Expat Family!

  • I love this post! I love learning about other cultures! And you know what? I never thought about it before. It really is a waste! I hope you had fun trick or treating! We only had four trick or treaters here!


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    • Reasons to Dress

      Ugh, we ate one of our “pumpkins” last night for dinner. It was delicious and a part of me is really glad we ate it. These Itals are turning me into one of them, help me!

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  • Happinessatmidlife

    We ran out of time and ended up not carving out pumpkin. I made a rice casserole in a pumpkin for our Halloween party and it was tasty! We let our son decorate the uncarved pumpkin with markers and I will use is it to make pumpkin soup. I love your costumes – so creative!


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  • Spidermummy

    This is really interesting! I’m a Brit, and although it’s becoming more popular now, traditionally we’ve never really celebrated Halloween either!

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    • Really?? That’s shocking to me! I had no idea that it wasn’t really a think in the UK, and just assumed all anglo countries celebrated Halloween. Thanks for letting me know!

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    • I honestly thought it was just as popular in the UK, learning so much!

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  • That is cool that you carved a tomato! My friends with children here decided not to carve a pumpkin but rather to stick stickers on it. After a few dye they peeled off the stickers and roasted the pumpkins. You could try that!

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  • Seychellesmama

    Your costumes are fantastic so talented 🙂
    A shame you didn’t get to carve pumpkins but they really are delicious aren’t they…..I use them in curries a lot here….so good 🙂

    I LOVE your Halloween tomato it’s so so cute, must have been really difficult to do but it really does look fantastic!!
    I didn’t know Halloween wasn’t really celebrated in Italy, not surprised to hear it’s growing though,such a fun holiday!
    It’s not really celebrated here either, although at my husbands school they always throw a Halloween faire which half the island turns up to and it’s lots of fun!!
    Thanks for joining in with my expat family, loved this post 🙂 x

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  • Phoebe Thomas

    Joining in with #MyExpatFamily linkup, happy to find your blog. I love your carved tomato, that’s just genious!! Halloween has risen and fallen in popularity in France where I live. I wrote about it too a couple of weeks ago. But I like it that different cultures don’t all have the same festivals, that would be so boring.

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  • Sara (@mumturnedmom)

    This is so interesting because for me it’s been the opposite. Halloween isn’t nearly so big in the UK, so the huge celebrations here in the US came as a bit of a surprise! We’ve just celebrated our third US Halloween and I think we’re all getting the hang of it now 🙂 #myexpatfamily

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    • I am so JEALOUS of you!!! I want to plan my next trip home to be at halloween just so that my son can experience it. Growing up it was by far my favourite night of the year!

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  • Adriana Kröller

    This is great and I totally understand! Here in Germany the idea of wasting a pumpkin is almost unbearable and I guess I get it but I still like to share the traditions I grew up with. I love the idea of carving a tomato! Looking forward to reading more of your posts, you and your family look like you’re having a blast x

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  • Ersatz Expat

    I carved a watermelon one year when I could not get a pumpkin. Oranges and turnips work well too! Your costumes looked brilliant by the way.

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    • WOW…that is awesome. Summer watermelon carving contest HERE I COME!! plus you wouldn’t even need to put a candle in it and you could totally eat whatever you scoop out. Brilliant. Do you have a blog?

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  • Hello from #myexpatfamily I’ve never experienced a real US Halloween as in the UK it’s not a big celebration and even less so in France. We do carve a pumpkin though, but as we grow lots there is always plenty to eat as well. I think it’s great you invite your Italian friends to celebrate.

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    • I’ve decided that next year we are carving the damn pumpkin!! Besides it is my responsibility to let my son celebrate at least a few North American traditions! Can’t wait to check out your blog, love the name……you had me at “french village!”

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  • Eline Alcocer

    I can’t believe you carved a tomato, that’s so clever! Last year I trawled our local market for a vaguely orange-looking pumpkin, and when I finally found one the guy was astonished I didn’t just want a chunk but the whole thing… I did make cookies with the flesh I scooped out though!
    Nice to meet you through the #myexpatfamily linky, in any case – we’re just up the road in Milan!

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    • Do you have a blog Eline? I’d love to read it!
      I lived and worked in Milan when I first moved to Italy and go back often! When I buy squash I usually ask the fruttivendolo to half it for me , so that I don’t have to cut it when I get home. It’s totally a thing here, but you’re right not suitable at ALL for halloween!!

      Thank you so much for coming by!

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  • We saw lots and lots of carved pineapples here in Costa Rica! I love the tomato. I’m going to try that next year… maybe a whole array of different carved fruits would be fun.

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    • AMAZING IDEA!! I would have never thought about carving a pineapple, love it. And yes carving a tomato turned out to be a super cute alternative one year and it was actually fast and easy to do!

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  • What a fantastic, interesting and insightful post …Haha! I just LOVE these differences… And that is too funny that you just couldn’t waste those delicious pumpkins 🙂

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  • Karen Bleakley

    Great post! It’s lovely to hear about traditions in other countries. This was our first Australian Halloween and I wasn’t sure if it would be as big as it is in the UK, but it was exactly the same only hotter! Loving the carved tomoato too. x

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  • Merlinda Little

    I have a friend who is Italian and she is invited my son to play with his son this Halloween for trick or treat. Sadly no one in our neighborhood gives out candies so we ended up not doing it. So it is safe to say that she has stayed here long enough to appreciate Halloween. Lovely to read this! I have learned something new =) #MyExpatFamily

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  • The last few years in Toronto I would carve pumpkins and between the raccoons and the squirrels they were destroyed over night! So instead I have the plastic plug in kind now that you don’t have to carve. We grew up with Halloween! I couldn’t give it up 🙂

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  • Sydney Fashion Hunter

    I’m Sydney born and bred and growing up in Australia Halloween was never a thing when we were kids. I can remember seeing American’s celebrating Halloween on TV and being very jealous. Over the last few years it has become quite big here … not as big as in the USA granted but enough people are doing it that you can’t help but notice. In 2015 it falls on a Saturday so we are gonna amp it up in our house!

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