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A cornucopia is a common sight on many Thanksgiving dinner tables throughout America. At this time of the year, you’re likely to see wicker cornucopias of all sizes filled to overflowing with apples, grapes, pears, leaves, and even small pumpkins. Some people get really creative filling their cornucopias with flowers, candy, or colorful veggies! I have a homemade cornucopia that I put on my Thanksgiving table every year. It’s made of raffia, and I love filling it with sedums, yellow mums, and other fall blooms. Also, I’ve found that a small cornucopia filled with colorful blooms makes an appealing gift for the host of a holiday party. Have you ever wondered why cornucopias are so closely connected with the Thanksgiving holiday? If you have, this week’s post is just for you. Enjoy!
History of the Cornucopia
Many people connect the cornucopia with the time of Christopher Columbus and the discovery of America. But this decoration goes back a lot further than that! In fact, the cornucopia makes an appearance in Greek mythology around 5 B.C. It figures into a myth about the birth of Zeus. The story goes that Zeus was raised in a cave by a goat called Amalthea. One day, Zeus accidentally broke one of Amalthea’s horns while he was playing with her. He felt so bad about what happened that he gave the goat’s horn special power. The goat’s horn would fill with whatever food or beverage its owner wished for. Today, our Thanksgiving cornucopia retains the shape of a goat’s horn and is a symbol of abundance.
The “Horn of Plenty”
A cornucopia is sometimes called a “horn of plenty.” Not surprisingly, this term is connected with the myth of Zeus and Amalthea. In addition, the Latin word cornu means “horn,” and copiae means “plenty,” so its name literally translates to “horn of plenty.” A cornucopia bursting with seasonal fruits and vegetables brings to mind the abundant harvest that led to the first celebration of Thanksgiving. Considering the variety of interesting stories behind the cornucopia, its descriptive nickname is a perfect fit.
Fun Facts About Cornucopias
- Cornucopias are pictured on the state flags of Idaho and Wisconsin.
- Cornucopias can be metal, wicker, stone, wood, or ceramic.
- The Craterellus cornucopiodes is a type of mushroom named for its cornucopia-like shape.
- Along with fruits and vegetables, some people put cattails in their cornucopia centerpieces.
- A cornucopia containing weapons plays a part in the popular Hunger Games book series.
- Goat horns filled with fruits and grains were present at European harvest festivals long ago.
Making a cornucopia can be a fun activity if you have children who want to contribute something to the Thanksgiving decor. Though the basic shape of a cornucopia is always the same, one can be created out of simple materials such as paper, fabric, or thin poster board. Kids can use their imaginations as they decorate the outsides of their cornucopias! So whether it’s homemade or store-bought, try including a unique cornucopia in your Thanksgiving celebrations this year.