I LOVE pineapples. I love the taste, the look, but especially the legend of their meaning.
I didn’t always love them. In fact, I don’t think I liked them at all until I was an adult. My dad was super allergic so, understandably, we never had them in the house. I think I had a bite of one that was NOT fresh or in season, and it did not make me feel I was missing anything. When I thought pineapple, I thought bitter and sour. And then I always thought they were strange when I saw them used in decorations. Sure, sure, if you’re having a Luau or something, definitely sprinkle some pineapples around. But they would appear in the most random places. Wallpaper. Carved into wood. Pillows. Very permanent pieces that were meant to remain year round, not just in the summer around swim parties.
Then I tasted one. A good one. As an objective grown-up, far removed from the INCREDIBLY picky eating of my childhood (I even eat condiments now, guys. Some of them…), I tasted one. And it was glorious. It might be my very favorite fruit. So then I became borderline obsessed with eating them. I have a special pineapple slicer that makes it WAY too convenient to cut them at home and have them ALL the time. My grandmother gave me an incredible recipe for Pineapple Sheet Cake that I can’t get enough of (Although I don’t bake it often because it’s a HUGE cake, so I only bake it when having guests. But then I’m always concerned someone will have an allergy. So if you’re NOT allergic to pineapple, let me know and we’ll have cake!). I grill them, cook with them, try not make myself sick with them. So yeah, I became a fan.
And THEN! I realized how pretty they really are. Geometrically they are fascinating, and they basically grown their own party hats. I began to understand why this beautiful, exotic fruit appears as adornment. They certainly conjure up images of summer, relaxation, and tropical retreats.
AND THEN!!! A friend explained the legend of the pineapple to me. I love symbolism, and I love a chance to weave meaning into our lives and our home’s decor. Many know that the pineapple is a symbol of hospitality. But many don’t really know why! So you’re welcome; here ya go. If you already knew all this, congratulations! We can be pineapple pals!
Once upon a time…back in “the day” if you will…pineapples were quite the status symbol in the early American colonies. This makes sense, in that pineapples are not native to the region, so getting one was difficult (because boats) and expensive (because economics). People would display their wealth and connections by providing pineapples at parties. Some who were trying to appear MORE wealthy than they were would only RENT the pineapples for display purposes (no eating, guests!), and then return them where they were sold to people who were wealthy enough to actually consume them. Maybe that’s why they started appearing on tables uncut. That’s all I can think when I see them displayed that way today. Can’t eat that expensive pineapple, it’s due back by 6!
But here’s the legend I really love. Some sources describe the tradition of New England sea captains returning home from voyages to the Caribbean. Loaded with goods, including the coveted pineapple, they would often display the rare and enticing fruit outside their home. It was a symbol, or rather a signal to everyone that the voyager had safely returned. More than even a signal, it became an invitation for neighbors to come welcome him home, share in his food, and fellowship together. As this custom spread, innkeepers incorporated the design of the pineapple into their architecture and decor. A sign that people were invited and welcome.
A pineapple is an invitation. An offering of hospitality and friendship. Whether or not pineapple is on the menu every time I entertain, I hope this is the atmosphere our home communicates. You are invited. You are welcome. Please share in our home, our food, our life. Now when I see them in wallpapers, carved into furniture and architecture, or printed on fabrics, I am cheered and encouraged by this significance.
I am trying to find display pieces I like for my own home. I’m pretty aesthetically picky about my pineapples. My favorite pineapple decor I have ever found is sadly discontinued. Love me some Willow Tree! I think maybe I dreamed that there was an enormous version of this 16″ figure, Hearth and Home. I check eBay from time to time! I slip small pineapples into spaces in the bookshelves. I have spring dish towels printed in them. My kids even know that I love pineapples and point them out whenever they see them. I even have a wreath hanger I love. And I love that it is meant for my door. Exactly where it belongs. Inviting and welcoming.