The Cornucopia or “horn of plenty” as it is known, is a typical fixture on many Thanksgiving dinner tables as the centerpiece. It is a symbol of abundance, the harvest, prosperity, and all of the sentiments that people think about and feel when their mind’s eye envisions a traditional Thanksgiving tablescape.
The Historical Roots of the Cornucopia
In reality, the cornucopia dates back to the 5th century B.C. and to a story that comes from Greek mythology. As is the case with many Greek myths, the story has multiple versions which is typical of legends that were handed down verbally. The Greek myth surrounding the origin of the cornucopia suggests that Zeus, the King of all Greek Gods, was responsible for its existence.
Zeus was the son of Cronus and Rhea. From the time Zeus was born, Cronus was convinced that once Zeus grew up, he would overthrow his father. Cronus was unwilling to let this happen, so he hatched a plan to get rid of Zeus. Rhea’s motherly instinct was to protect her son and to get him out of harm’s way. She sent him to live in a cave on Mount Ida so he couldn’t be found. She entrusted his care with Almathea, a goat who became his surrogate mother.
One day when Almathea and Zeus were playing together, Zeus broke her horn. Almathea turned into a unicorn. Many years later, Zeus felt remorse for the innocent accident. He returned the horn to Almathea. The horn now had magical powers. The horn was continuously replenished with fresh fruits and flowers.
Throughout history, artistic representations of the “horn of plenty” always depict it in scenarios where it overflows with an abundance of seasonal foods and flowers.
The Cornucopia as a Symbol of the Harvest
The cornucopia first appeared in an English dictionary in the 16th century. Today, the “horn of plenty” is represented with a wicker or rattan basket in the shape of a horn. During autumn, it is often used as a table centerpiece on special occasions. Sometimes it is filled with fresh fruits, ornamental gourds, decorative corn, sprigs of wheat, dried leaves, and most of all, brightly colored seasonal flowers.
As a focal point on a Thanksgiving table, it is a symbol of the abundant offerings that go with Thanksgiving meals. A cornucopia centerpiece should overflow with symbols of the season such as the flowers seen in our Cornucopia Centerpiece. We fill a table-sized bushel basket with giant sunflowers, mums, other seasonal flowers, and ornamental cabbage. The flowers and decorative accents in this arrangement represent a good example of what you can expect to find in a cornucopia centerpiece.
Our Rose Hill Flowers team wants to help you bring this historic symbol of the harvest and what it means to your Thanksgiving meal table. Contact us to discuss the floral arrangements for your Thanksgiving gathering or peruse our online catalog of other beautiful seasonal fall flowers for your Thanksgiving table.