A Pineapple Welcome

When welcoming a new neighbor or visiting a friend, you can bring them a pineapple as a symbol of friendship and hospitality. The pineapple is an iconic fruit known for the tradition of ‘welcome’.

In the Southern U.S. states, pineapples are seen everywhere. The iconic pineapple is represented in popular culture, art, and even in architecture. From home décor, such as brass door knockers, beds, wallpaper, welcome mats to business cards.  The pineapple has been a symbol of hospitality since the days of the early explorers to the West Indies and Americas to the colonies.

The legend began with the sea captains of New England, who sailed among the Caribbean Islands. They returned to the colonies bearing their cargo of fruits, spices and rum. According to the legend, the captain would spear a pineapple on a fence post outside his home to let his friends know of his safe return from sea. The pineapple was an invitation for them to visit, share his food and drink, and listen to tales of his voyage. As the tradition grew, colonial innkeepers added the pineapple to their signs and advertisements, and bedposts carved in the shape of a pineapple were a common sight at inns across New England. This tradition continued with those who settled in the new land.

 

The History Of The Pineapple:

Christopher Columbus brought the succulent prickly fruit back to Europe in 1493 after his second voyage of discovery in Guadeloupe. Its similar shape and rough, spiky surface caused the Spaniards to name it piña, after the pine cone. The English noted the same resemblance, hence our word “pineapple”. To the Caribs (Natives of Guadalupe), the pineapple symbolized hospitality, and the Spaniards soon learned they were welcome if a pineapple was placed by the entrance to a village. This symbolism spread to Europe, then to Colonial North America, where it became the custom to carve the shape of a pineapple into the columns at the entrance of a plantation.

As tradition would have it, a pineapple was served or placed in an arrangement at every meal when a guest was visiting your home or plantation. Pineapples were very rare and hard to attain in colonial and early plantation life, hence it was a sign that you were truly welcome and your presence was celebrated. Traveling was a great feat in the days before gas powered engines, the journey to and from could take weeks on end. Therefore guests would stay for extended visits, and once the pineapple was removed from the serving table they would know it was time to leave.

 

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Photography: Daniel Francis O’Dowd, J. Levau

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