Pineapples symbolize luxury, welcomeness, infertility, virility (paradoxically!!), beauty, hospitality and royalty. This symbolism has been used for many years including on furniture and in religion.
Unlike other concepts like youth (see here) or death (and here), finding the symbolic meaning of pineapple involves a deeper search.
The fruit has been discovered and rediscovered around the entire globe, traded as a commodity, and planted in foreign lands.
Throughout its many journeys, it has come to symbolize welcome, luxury, and beauty, as well as fertility, war, and royalty. Although these symbolic meanings seem vastly different from each other, they all have one thing in common: the sweet fruit and beautiful symmetry of the pineapple.
For centuries, the pineapple has been a sign of luxury. Christopher Columbus is said to have taken the pineapple back to Spain in 1493, and the Europeans fell in love with its sweet fruit.
But Europe was no place to grow pineapples, and importing them required a long, perilous, and expensive journey. At this time, the pineapple was often used as a table decoration, and people didn’t eat them until they started to go bad.
Interestingly, if people could not afford a pineapple, they would often rent one for an evening to show off to neighbors and friends, and that is a way that they could gain favor and save money.
Because pineapples were so expensive, if you were lucky enough to have one, it meant that you had some money to spare!
The trade routes between the early American world and the Caribbean were very dangerous to traverse. Being able to get back from the treacherous journey in one piece, and bringing back pineapples with you, meant a real victory.
So if you were welcomed to someone’s house with a coveted pineapple, that is a sign that the host had pulled out all the stops and was offering you all they had to give.
The pineapple has been a sign of hospitality ever since. If sailors made the perilous journey intact, they would often put an intact pineapple on the porch to signify their safe return.
Today, people even hang pineapples outside their door as a sign to guests that they are welcomed in the house.
There are several reasons why a pineapple is a symbol for infertility. For one thing, bromelain is found extensively in pineapples, especially in the core.
Bromelain usually helps us digest food, but if you eat pineapple on an empty stomach, bromelain becomes an anti-inflammatory and blood thinner, which can help a fetus attach to the uterine wall.
In many cases of infertility, it is this implantation state that causes trouble for many women. A second reason women use the pineapple as a sign of infertility is simply because of the shape and stature of the pineapple itself.
This is because a woman needs to stand tall in the face of the adversity of infertility, just like the pineapple stands tall with the “crown” on its head.
On the flip side of infertility, a pineapple is also a sign of virility.
In the time of the Aztecs, the gods took it as a sign of strength to climb and get a pineapple from a tree and get through the thick skin to enjoy the delicious fruit.
There are also physical reasons why a pineapple helps a man to be more virile. Because of the manganese, thiamin, and Vitamin C it contains, if men eat pineapple it is believed they will be more potent.
This symbolism has stayed, and strength and virility are definitely qualities that men want to have, so they will be sure to stick close to the pineapple.
It is said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. But since the time of Aristotle and the ancient Greeks, the idea of symmetry has been beautiful.
Proportionality is also seen as beautiful. In later times, St. Augustine looked at beauty as coming forth from balance and form. The pineapple wins for symmetry, all the way to the top of the crown.
The way a pineapple fruit is arranged is also very symmetrical. The florets are beautifully aligned, and each side of the pineapple is symmetrical. Beyond being symmetrical, the floret arrangement is pure mathematical genius.
It is so remarkable because the florets are arranged in a pattern or sequence where each consecutive number is the sum of the two that come before it. A true marvel of engineering!
A meaning of escape from the same old architecture, using pineapples in buildings has become very popular, and although obviously it could have many symbols, is most often seen as a sign of hospitality.
As an overt sign of welcome, pineapples appear on gates, buildings, on fence posts, and front porches. Throughout the world there are also pineapple shaped fountains, furniture, and various other pieces that bring a smile to the faces of those who see them.
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Historical Meanings of Pineapples
The pineapple has long been a symbol of royalty. Specifically, this symbolizes the divine right of kings, because of the crown shape.
In addition to the shape, the distance it traveled to Europe meant it was out of reach for commoners.
Only royalty had the means and the money to buy and enjoy pineapples. In the 1600’s King Charles II named the pineapple King-pine, and after that it really took off as a sign of royalty.
For several reasons, pineapples served as a symbol of war.
One of the major reasons is because the toughness of the outer skin was a great comparison to the toughness that warriors needed in order to fight the most difficult battles during war.
In addition to this reason, in ancient cultures, ceremonies honoring the god Vitzliputzli, who was the god of war, often involved pineapple.
When people offered gifts to the gods, they included the sweet and tough pineapple in their gifts to honor the gods.
Interestingly, the pineapple was often seen as a symbol of Christianity.
Just as Jesus Christ would give his life for his followers and those he loved, eventually dying on a cross, the pineapple would give its life, all for one single fruit.
In early history, a pineapple symbol on a house was therefore thought to represent the family inside were Christians. Many Christians were also known to be welcoming, so this fits well together.
Early pineapple decorations in homes were thought to belong to homes of Christians, as the fruit was seen as a comparison to Jesus. Today, you can find pineapples on so many products! Here are just a few examples.
- Lamp bottoms: A light shining in a corner of the room with a pineapple as its base is sure to be a hit. Perhaps if it’s in a bedroom, it will also be a sign of virility.
- Cake pedestals: What a warm welcome guests would have if you serve them a cake on a pineapple pedestal!
- Embroidered on pillows and stamped onto sheets: Likewise, overnight house guests would feel very happy to have such a warm welcome with the linens on the bed.
- Baskets: Adorning the corners of your rooms with baskets shaped like pineapples gives you a great place to store things while still showing your sense of hospitality.
- Wall sconces: Imagine the soft light shining forth from a pineapple shaped wall sconce in your hallway, a sign of peaceful welcome.
- Jewelry: Pineapples have adorned every kind of necklace, bracelet, and ring imaginable, and offer a sign of hospitality to both the giver and the receiver of the jewelry who gets to wear it.
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Just like the journey of the pineapple hundreds of years ago when it was first discovered for its sweet, delicious fruit, the journey of pineapple symbols has traveled through time and traveled the globe.
The symbolism of pineapple stretches from royalty to war to virility to infertility. Pineapples have been emblazoned on front doors and backpacks and everything in between.
And at the end of the day, the pineapple is still the sweetest fruit around, and a sign that you are welcomed with open arms.
I’m Chris and I run this website – a resource about symbolism, metaphors, idioms, and a whole lot more! Thanks for dropping by.