To make a long story short - when the tall ship captains came home in the 1700s and 1800s usually they would have ship full of bounty. Because it was tradition to share the bounty with friends and neighbors, they began putting a pineapple on the front steps of their house. This would be the sign that the captain was home, he had bounty from the ship and all were welcome to come to share it with his family.
Some stories also date back to Colonial days. In the United States, families would set a fresh pineapple in the center of the table as a colorful centerpiece of the festive meal, especially when visitors joined them in celebration. This symbolized the utmost in welcome and hospitality to the visitor, and the fruit would be served as a special desert after the meal. Often when the visitor spent the night, he was given the bedroom which had the pineapples carved on the bedposts or headboard--even if the bedroom belonged to the head of the household.
Others share the story of To the Carib appellation that 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.
The presence of pineapples on Caribbean islands was not a natural event, but rather the result of centuries of indian migration and commerce. Accomplished dugout canoe navigators, the maritime tribes explored, raided and traded across a vast expanse of tropical oceans, seas and river systems. The herbaceous plant they called "anana," or "excellent fruit," originally evolved in the inland areas of what is now Brazil and Paraguay and was widely transplanted and cultivated. Highly regarded for its intense sweetness, the "excellent fruit" was a staple of indian feasts and rites related to tribal affirmation. It was also used to produce Indian wine.
The first encounter between a European and a pineapple occurred in November, 1493, when Christopher Columbus, on his second voyage to the Caribbean region, lowered anchor in a cove off the lush, volcanic island of Guadaloupe and went ashore to inspect a deserted Carib village. There, amidst parrot-flecked jungle foliage and wooden pillars spiraled with serpent carvings, his crew came upon cook pots filled with human body parts. Nearby were piles of freshly gathered vegetables and fruits, including pineapples. The European sailors ate, enjoyed and recorded the curious new fruit which had an abrasive, segmented exterior like a pine cone and a firm interior pulp like an apple.
A small, peaceful hamlet in rural Alabama boasts symbols of the pineapple everywhere your eyes may look. Pine Apple, settled by "Easterners" from the Carolinas, Georgia, and Virginia around 1820 was originally named "Friendship". But there was already another Friendship, Alabama, so the settlers named their town in honor of the pine and the apple trees that gave the land its beauty and the town its wealth. These days the town's name is as often written "Pineapple" and it is Pine Apple. Signs of this universal symbol of hospitality are seen painted on the front doors of homes and the town's welcome sign, carved in fanciful finials and Christmas decorations, atop gate-posts and roof-tops, carved into bedposts and head-boards, and found in a variety of table centerpieces.5 Other carved items found around southern homes include serving trays and wooden bowls.
Not only have wood-carvers etched this immortal symbol, but the delicate hands of needle-workers have preserved this symbol in family heirlooms over the centuries. Items such as pineapple samplers, table cloths, and crochet doilies are but a few of the items found in homes of unbounding welcome. Modern decorative items include pot holders, towels, small framed accents, drink coasters, decorative flags, brass door knockers, curtain finials, stair-rail and mailbox posts, and welcome mats.
The pineapple has been a universal symbol of hospitality and welcome for many centuries all over the world.