Pineapple Day: How I Started a Global 🍍 Holiday

On June 27th of this year, the co-stars of Psych posted this video celebrating Pineapple Day.

They weren’t alone. Hundreds of other celebrities and brands celebrated on social media as well, including T-Mobile, The Cheesecake Factory, Malibu Rum, Eaze, Dole, The Good Place, DiGiorno, Antiques Roadshow, Fandango, Consumer Reports, Merriam-Webster, and many many more. Local TV stations covered the holiday, and thousands of regular folks celebrated in their own way. The #nationalpineappleday and #internationalpineappleday hashtags have over 10,000 posts on Instagram.

June 27th has clearly cemented itself as the day to celebrate all things pineapple. What none of these people know, however, is that the true origin of Pineapple Day is a funny story from the very early days of Firebase. This is that story.

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The First Pineapple Day

“What’s up with the pineapple?” James asked as he walked in the door. He had noticed the large, ripe-smelling pineapple sitting on my desk, and was a bit confused.

It was 9 AM on June 27th, 2011, and we were in our small coworking office on Townsend St. in San Francisco. James and I were a bit over 3 years into our startup journey, and we had just started our summer at Y Combinator. It was still just the two of us; we had yet to hire any full time employees.

The truth was that I had craved pineapple that morning, so I stopped at the nearby Safeway on the way into the office. Our recent infusion of Y Combinator investment money had enabled us to switch our diets from mooching off of my aunt and uncle to actually buying our own food at the grocery store. This was super exciting, and I was taking full advantage of this newfound freedom. I like my fruit fresh, so canned or even pre-cut pineapple was out of the question. I bought a whole fruit and planned to chop it up in the shared kitchen. Even if I couldn’t eat the whole thing, I was confident that the other nearby founders would be happy for a snack.

Of course, that’s not what I told James. After 3+ years of working together in a confined space, we had developed a special level of snark in our relationship that’s normally reserved for notes left on badly parked cars. “It’s International Bring Your Pineapple to Work Day,” I responded. Adding casually, “Where’s yours?”

“That’s not a real thing,” James retorted with an eyeroll as he set his bag down and sat down at his desk.

“Sure it is” I insisted, and to back my claim up I pulled up Google Calendar and added “International Bring Your Pineapple to Work Day” to our shared company calendar. I set the event to repeat every year on June 27th. Later that day, we ate my pineapple in what we later termed the “pineapple slaughter” (a term which, in hindsight, was unnecessarily violent). At the time, we had no idea how significant this day would eventually become.

That night, I made the first public announcement of the holiday in a tweet:

One Year Later

By June 27th, 2012, Firebase had grown to a team of four with the addition of Vikrum and Michael. The first pineapple day had been long forgotten at this point, so it was a surprise to me and James when we arrived at the office to find Michael with a big, juicy pineapple on his desk.

“What’s up with the pineapple?” we asked.

“I don’t know. It said ‘International Bring Your Pineapple to Work Day’ on the calendar. So I did.” Michael responded.

“Where’s yours?”

I knew then and there that this was going to be big. If Michael was excited enough about the idea that a random confusing calendar event was enough to get him to buy and bring a pineapple, then this thing had legs. We decided that from then on, “International Bring Your Pineapple to Work Day” (“Pineapple Day” or “BYPTWD” for short) was going to be a company-wide holiday.

Secretly, I had grander ambitions: to make Pineapple Day a global holiday, on the level of New Years, Independence Day, April Fool’s Day, Festivus, etc.

Pineapple Day at Firebase Over the Years

We’ve celebrated Pineapple Day every year since. As Firebase grew, so did the holiday.

In 2013, our employees were thrilled about the mandatory celebration of pineapples, as you can see.

Michael, Anant, and I discussing pineapples at daily standup.

Michael, Anant, and I discussing pineapples at daily standup.

2014 featured an intense pineapple competition.

Pineapple Day only accelerated after we joined Google and began to evangelize the holiday to the broader company. By 2015 it had spread as far as New York.

Arjun clearly wins with his full-body pineapple suit.

Arjun clearly wins with his full-body pineapple suit.

By 2016 it had gone fully international with team members in Europe and Canada celebrating.

In 2017, James spoke about the holiday on the Firebase YouTube channel:

And the team threw it’s biggest party yet, with a pineapple-dog and a human-sized balloon pineapple (in the back):

In 2018, the Firebase console even added a pineapple-themed easter egg.

This year, Firebase even announced their upcoming summit with Pineapples.

Pineapple Day Spreads Beyond Google

In 2015, something unexpected began to happen. Our internal celebrations had created such a buzz on social media that a number of websites began to take notice. It turns out there are a bunch of websites that track these “minor holidays”, and they were eager to add a Pineapple-themed holiday to their guides. National Day, Days of the Year, Difford’s Guide, Happy Days 365, What’s Trending, and many more sites began to list June 27th as Pineapple Day.

Then came the merchandise. Pineapples were already becoming a trendy design in fashion, and retailers were all too happy to capitalize on this holiday, including big brands like TopShop.

And then, with pineapple love spreading across the internet and into fashion, marketers at major brands took notice. And then things really started to snowball. In 2015 Del Monte celebrated the holiday. In 2016 Stephen Colbert tweeted about Pineapple Day, along with HSN and Kroger. In 2017, Nickelodeon, Skyy Vodka, and some TV stations joined the fun. 2018 got even bigger, with Lifetime and Dole and dozens more getting involved.

Finally, mass exposure from brands and influencers (like Miss America Illinois and others) got ordinary people on board too and the holiday began to spread virally. Growth went vertical in 2019, and now, Pineapple Day is a popular, international holiday.

And that’s the story of how Pineapple Day came to be. It is arguably my proudest achievement 🍍. While I’m no longer at Firebase, I continue to celebrate the holiday every year.

This year, my fiancé Hannah surprised me with this incredible pineapple cake.

This year, my fiancé Hannah surprised me with this incredible pineapple cake.

Pineapple Day 2020 and Beyond

Pineapple Day 2019 was the biggest and best yet, but we’re really just getting started. I hope you will join this global movement and help bring pineapple love to all 7.5 billion people on earth. Please mark your calendars for June 27th, 2020 and prepare for a Pineapple Day of truly epic proportions.

My cousin, the biggest pineapple fan of them all.

My cousin, the biggest pineapple fan of them all.

On a Serious Note

While I’m not 100% sure we actually started this holiday, I think there’s a pretty good chance that this is how it happened. It is celebrated on June 27th, and it seems no one else celebrated it until after Firebase started posting about it. So that would be quite a coincidence if it really wasn’t the cause.

I think there’s a lesson in here in all of this: it’s amazing what an impact your actions can have, especially in unexpected ways. I never would have imagined that craving pineapple one morning in 2011 would lead to thousands of people celebrating a fake holiday years later. So, if you want to make your mark on the world, just keep putting good things out there. You won’t always succeed (in fact, usually you won’t), but don’t let that discourage you, because every once in a while something magical will happen.

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