Thanksgiving is just around the corner and many of us are beginning to think about how we want to decorate our tables for this festive occasion. In some traditional American homes, you will see a cornucopia, or “horn of plenty,” as part of the celebration.
Symbolizing abundance of both food and wealth, the cornucopia has a history dating back more than 2,500 years! Its story has roots in Greek and Roman mythology.
The ancient Greeks say that Zeus, when he was an infant, received a never-ending supply of nourishment from a magic goat horn provided by his caregiver Amalthea.
The ancient Romans tell it differently. According to them, Achelous, the river god, lost one of his horns in a battle with Hercules. Nymphs then placed “the choicest fruits of autumn” in it, as Ovid writes in his poem Metamorphoses, and it became the horn of plenty, a holy symbol of bounty.
The cornucopia symbol can be found across history on coins, coats of arms, statues, paintings, flags, buildings, and more.
Eventually, the cornucopia represented the harvest season, and it was frequently found at festivals. The goat horn was ultimately replaced by a horn-shaped basket that today is often made of woven wicker.
In the United States it became a part of our Thanksgiving holiday and now graces many homes this time of year!