The Juicy Details Behind the Symbol of Hospitality

June 29, 2017

Pineapples – juicy, sweet, delicious, and the international symbol of hospitality!  How did this crazy-looking fruit become the symbol of an entire industry?  In honor of National Pineapple Day earlier this week, we decided to do some digging.  What we found is that there is actually more than one answer as to how this tradition started.  Let’s start with the explorer Christopher Columbus.

Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492!  Turns out he didn’t stop there; in 1493 his adventurous spirit took him to the Caribbean Islands.  There he discovered a deserted village with plenty of pineapples to go around.  His crew immediately noticed the oddly-shaped fruit that looked like pine cones on the outside and were firm like apples on the inside.  With the rarity of fresh fruit and sugar in his homeland, you can bet the Queen was quite happy with his discovery!  As hard as they tried, Europeans were unsuccessful in growing them locally for nearly 200 years.  This helped solidify it as a symbol of royal privilege.

At the same time the royals were hoarding all the pineapples back home, the American colonies began to get settled.  However, even the speediest ships struggled to deliver the fruit to the colonies before it rotted on the hot and humid voyages.  For our younger readers, this was before Amazon Prime and their two day shipping!  Since pineapples weren’t growing on trees once again, like back home in Europe, they became a symbol of high society.  The low supply and high demand quickly elevated them to status of superstar!  If a hostess was able to obtain a pineapple for her dinner table, she would be the talk of the town.  Visitors to the table knew the hostess had spared no expense to make them feel welcome, thus beginning the tradition of the pineapple representing hospitality.

Of course we wouldn’t be doing our due diligence if we didn’t tell you another possibility we stumbled upon as to why pineapples are the symbol they are today.  Legend has it that sea captains from New England would return from the Caribbean Islands with their cargo, which sometimes included pineapples.  When they arrived home they would spear a pineapple on a nearby fence post.  This alerted friends of their safe return and invited them to stop by for drinks and to listen to tales of the voyage.  Lucky for them this was before cameras, so they didn’t have to sit through never-ending  slideshows from his vacation!

As the tradition grew, colonial innkeepers began to add pineapples to their signs and even advertising.  Bedposts carved in the shape of pineapples soon became common site at inns across the colonies.  Even today, pineapples are still popular motifs for gateposts and door knockers as a sign of hospitality.

So there you have it.  To this day, pineapples are used throughout the hospitality industry as a symbol of welcome and friendship.  If you missed National Pineapple Day, you can still celebrate.  You can even start a new tradition of spearing one outside your door so strangers know that they are welcome to come in to eat and drink and look at pictures from your last vacation.