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The Symbolism of Pineapples (Top 6 Meanings)

The Symbolism of Pineapples (Top 6 Meanings)

Throughout history, pineapples have been one of the most sought-after fruits and have earned a status that no other fruit has. They require a specific climate to achieve the right size and flavor, so supply has always been limited. 

Even with modern farming techniques that have helped increase pineapple production, they are still in much lower supply than other fruits such as apples and bananas. They have been associated with status, beauty, war, hospitality, and much more throughout history. 

Read on to find out more about what this delicious fruit can symbolize.

Pineapples symbolize ‘the best’ of something, luxury, wealth, hospitality, travel, conquest, beauty, and war.

1. The Best 

Even today, pineapples are not the cheapest fruit you can buy. In the past, when production was much lower and transporting fruit over long distances was costly, pineapples were considered a luxury item that only wealthy people enjoyed. [1] 

Pineapples on tree.
Photo by Phoenix Han on Unsplash

They, therefore, were considered a sign of high quality and ‘the best’ of something. 

In conversation, things were often called ‘the pineapple of their kind’ or ‘that person is a true pineapple.’ In the 18th century, the phrase, ‘a pineapple of the finest flavor,’ was a common expression to say something was of the highest quality.  

2. Luxury and Wealth 

Since they were expensive and often very limited in supply, they were only afforded by the wealthy. In Europe, pineapples became a major status symbol and a way for people to flaunt their power and money. 

Juicy pineapple slices on a wooden table.
Juicy pineapple slices on a wooden table

They were also quite hard to get, so just having the ability to purchase one was something to brag about. 

During the 17th and 18th centuries, pineapples were such a prized possession that they were used as decorative pieces, not food. [2]

People would purchase one and display it in their dining area in front of guests to illustrate how wealthy and affluent they were. Those who could not afford to purchase it could rent one for a day and use it as decoration. People who owned pineapples would keep them on display until they started to go bad. 

During this time, it was also extremely expensive to farm this fruit. Pineapples require a lot of maintenance and care throughout the year to yield a good crop, and expert farmers are needed for this operation. 

Landlords in Europe who chose to grow pineapples were regarded as the top 1% of the population or possibly the top 0.1% as they had the means to own and grow them. Given the high costs, growing them locally in England and Scotland was just as expensive, if not more, than importing them. 

A famous example of wealth is the Dunmore Pineapple that was built by Job Murray, who was the 4th Earl of Dunmore in 1761. 

The centerpiece of the building is a 14-meter tall (nearly 50-foot high) pineapple. The purpose of the building was to show the royal family‘s power through the symbolism of their capability to grow such a prized fruit in the cold climate of Scotland. 

3. Hospitality 

It is rumored that when Europeans first visited the Americas, they saw pineapples hanging outside the homes of the natives. They assumed this sign meant that guests and visitors were welcome. [3] 

Pineapple hanging in a market.

They left a wonderful fragrance at the home’s entrance, which people enjoyed. This played a role in setting the trend for how pineapples were used as decorative pieces in European homes later on. The fact that someone displayed such pricey fruit for guests did show their wealth, but it also showed their hospitality as they were willing to pay a high price for the pleasure of their guests. 

Other European stories mention that when sailors, specifically captains of ships, would return from their voyages of the Americas, they would hang pineapples outside their homes. 

This was a way for them to tell their neighbors and the broader public that they had returned and that people were welcome to the home to hear about their adventures at sea. 

4. Travel and Conquest 

In the past, it was very common for voyagers and explorers to come back with new and interesting finds from distant lands. 

Edibles were a favorite item for them to bring back, and among them, the exotic pineapple was one of the most highly prized items. Explorers also brought back black pepper, new kinds of fish, and even ice

These items were often displayed as trophies that indicated a successful mission abroad. Europe was never a big producer of agricultural products, and such items were sought after in countries such as Spain, England, and France. 

5. Beauty 

Some of the greatest thinkers, philosophers, and even mathematicians have discussed what beauty is. 

While it is certainly a personal choice, there is no doubt that things with symmetry and balance are pleasing to the eye. In this regard, the pineapple is a unique fruit with a beautiful pattern built with nearly perfect symmetry. 

Pineapple on a wooden table.
Photo by Thereal Snite on Unsplash

Even the leaves on top of the fruit follow the Fibonacci sequence. Even today, it is considered a very visually appealing fruit. 

6. War

Huitzilopochtli, Aztec god, as depicted in Codex Telleriano-Remensis in 16th century.
Huitzilopochtli, Aztec god

Huitzilopochtli is the Aztec God of War. The Aztecs often dedicated pineapples as an offering to this particular God. In their illustrations of Huitzilopochtli, he is often seen carrying pineapples or surrounded by pineapples.

Conclusion

Pineapples were often difficult to access, and how people used them in their daily lives depended a lot on how readily available they were. They have earned a reputation for many different things. 

Today, this is a fruit available in most parts of the world, and people rarely consider what its importance might have been in the past. It is a powerful symbol of power, money, travel, war, and much more!

References:

  1. https://www.millersguild.com/what-does-the-pineapple-symbolize/
  2. https://symbolismandmetaphor.com/pineapple-symbolism/
  3. https://www.southernkitchen.com/story/entertain/2021/07/22/how-pineapple-became-ultimate-symbol-southern-hospitality/8059924002/