Charlie Brown first hit the comic strips in Italy in 1960, so when the Great Pumpkin came six years later, Italians already loved the Peanuts and were following along with their story. But something happened in the translation that year, and now Charlie Brown has gone down in history as having a story in October caled – “E’ il grande cocomero, Charlie Brown” that literally translates to: “It’s the Great Watermelon, Charlie Brown.”
How did this happen?? In the 1960’s Halloween certainly wasn’t a thing here, and pumpkins were used for cooking, not for carving, but it get’s more complicated than that. At first, people thought because of the black and white cartoons, and the foreignness of the tradition may have made the confusion possible, but it was oddly a conscious decision to change the vegetable that Charlie Brown comes into contact with. Apparently, the translators didn’t like that the word pumpkin is feminine in Italian, making the big pumpkin character that was supposed to resemble Santa a more feminine character than masculine. Call it sexism, call it a bad decision, call it confusion, but all of a sudden, Italy was accepting that a giant green watermelon visits kiddos on Halloween.
Through the years and with the holiday traditions becoming more international, most Italians know now that it’s pumpkins, not watermelons, that are supposed to haunt the night tonight, and now they even sell pumpkins in the supermarkets occasionally (though there’s a warning on them not to eat them, which I find humorous. These specific pumpkins are boxed in cardboard and only for carving). The name grande cocomero has stuck, however, as more of a humorous joke and their own little amusing Halloween tradition.