The Cornucopia: A Thanksgiving Symbol

Phyllis Décor 15 Comments

My mother always has a marvelous Thanksgiving table. It is piled high with the classic food of the holiday causing the delicious aroma of turkey and pie to fill the house. Her table is not only full of delicious food, but is always decorated beautifully. Since I was a child, I have admired the cornucopia my mother used to decorate the table. I have a cornucopia of my own now, and I love using it as a part of my Thanksgiving décor.

I grew up knowing a cornucopia as a “horn of plenty.” The name cornucopia comes from two Latin words: cornu, meaning “horn,” and copia, meaning “plenty.” This horn is often associated with Thanksgiving, although it is unclear how that came to be. It is quite possible that a cornucopia was actually present at the first Thanksgiving, but there is no definite record to prove it.

The origin of the cornucopia is commonly associated with several mythological legends. A common one is this legend from Greek mythology: As an infant, the god Zeus was hiding in a cave from his father. While hiding in the cave, he was cared for by a goat named Amalthea. One day as she was nursing the baby Zeus, he broke off one of her horns, which began to pour out a constant supply of nourishment.

Through mythology, the cornucopia became a symbol of abundance. It is featured on many flags, including the state flags of Idaho and North Carolina, as well as coats of arms for Panama, Peru, Venezuela, and Columbia. In artwork, it was often full with an abundance of food, leading it to become a symbol of harvest time. Over the centuries, the image of a cornucopia evolved from an animal horn to a horn-shaped basket. Now, we most commonly know a cornucopia as a hollow and horn-shaped basket, usually wicker, filled with fall produce. Each time I see a cornucopia, I am immediately transported back to the joys of my childhood Thanksgivings.

How do you decorate your Thanksgiving table?

Comments 15

  1. Today I have made Cranberry Relish, a recipe from “Southern Lady Magazine”, the Nov.-Dec. 2008 issue! We have this every year for Thanksgiving and it is always a favorite. Happy Thanksgiving to all!

  2. Love Thanksgiving my favorite holiday!!!
    My table will have my special pilgrims standing high surrounded by golds and brown. Also included will be my turkey candleholders … Then goodies begin moms dressing,sweet potatoes …
    Mac and cheese , tea biscuits… And of course turkey on special platter!!!
    Happy Thanksgiving!
    Your magazines bring me so much joy and inspiration!

  3. I still have my mother’s wicker cornucopia which has rings so it can be hung up on a wall, or laid flat and filled with Indian corncobs and other symbols of the harvest. I will be bringing it out for my own Thanksgiving table!

  4. Phyllis, thank you for that bounty of information!!
    Mother always placed a cornucopia on our Thanksgiving table. The one that I remember best is a large crystal one that she filled with fruit and or flowers. Preparing and placing it on the table was /is a cherished tradition. In later years, she used a Lenox Fruits of Life china cornucopia. Thursday, one of these will be on our dinner table; one on the buffet.
    For me cornucopias symbolize God’s bounteous blessings to each of us…
    His Blessings to our Ribbon Community!

  5. My “horn of plenty” – cornucopia I received as a wedding gift 48 years ago. It is Frankoma pottery and I have always loved it. So I can enjoy it even longer I use it through the Christmas holiday filling it with sparkly fruit decorations.

  6. Growing up a horn of Plenty was the name I knew the Cornucopia as. In September when the house is decorated for Fall the Cornucopia comes out until after Thanksgiving.

  7. I always loved these as a child…. I was taught that it was God’s abundance for His people. I somehow always managed to turn the wicker piece into a hat – looking a bit like an elf.

    Ah, those days seem like yesterday. Today the sight or thought of a cornucopia reminds me of God’s love and the wonderful season of Autumn where new beginnings always seem to start with a smile….


    Brandon Hartford
    Te Deum Cottage

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