Southern Hospitality: The Significance Of The Pineapple in Charleston

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When you visit Disney World, there are hidden Mickeys scattered throughout the park.  We are fairly certain Walt Disney stole this idea from Charleston and her pineapples.  If you take a 5-minute stroll, you’ll do well if you can make it a few feet without spotting an ornamental carving or sculpture of the fruit.

To understand the significance of the pineapple, we have to travel back to its origins.  It’s said that on his second voyage to the colonies, Christopher Columbus discovered the pineapple. He then returned to Europe with a sample of the fruit.  Sweets were uncommon and a luxury few could afford.  Sugar which had been refined from cane was exceptionally costly as it was imported from the orient.   At the time of Columbus, the pineapple was considered a luxury exclusive for the nobility of the day.  King Charles II posed for an official portrait with a pineapple, which was meant to display his wealth and preeminence.

Later as the colonies in the Americas began to grow, hostesses would welcome guests to dinner parties and make a grand display of the table setting.  She would wait for all of the guests to be gathered before the French doors, with flourish and drama she would then reveal the table setting.  Most often those who were prominent in the community would go to great lengths to have a pineapple displayed as the tallest feature of the table.  In fact, for those who could not afford the expense of a pineapple, they would rent one for the day from a local merchant.  The pineapple would then be returned the following day to be sold to someone who would enjoy it as décor before indulging in it. 

Southern legend tells the tales of sea captains coming home from their voyages and impaling a pineapple at the gate of their home, which would signify to all neighbors that he had returned from sea and was welcoming guests into his home. 

Through the customs and legends above, the pineapple became a symbol of hospitality and friendship. 

On your next journey to Charleston, take a stroll down the historic streets and count how many pineapples you can find.   The one thing you can count on when you're in Charleston is that you'll truly experience southern hospitality at its best.  

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