History and symbolism of cornucopias

History and symbolism of cornucopias

Thanksgiving floral arrangements are often displayed in a cornucopia. Have you ever wondered why? What is a cornucopia and how did it become a common holiday centerpiece? 

The word cornucopia originated in Latin — cornu (horn) and copia (abundance). Known as the “horn of plenty,” the cornucopia is a symbol of nourishment and plenty, which is why the horn-shaped baskets are usually pictured overflowing with foods, flowers, fruits, nuts, or other items that are popular in specific regions. 

Traditionally, Asians and Europeans would wear the cornucopia baskets around their body with a leather strap and use them for harvesting purposes. The large opening on one side enabled the harvester to easily grab and toss the food products they were picking into the cornucopia slung around their waist or onto their back.

Horns of plenty are also featured prominently in Greek and Roman mythology, in which they generally associate a deity or hero with prosperity and abundance. One such story includes baby Zeus, while in hiding from his father Cronus, being cared for by several divine nursemaids, including a goat. The infant future king of the Greek gods accidentally broke off one of the goat’s horns. Because the horn came from a divine creature, it was able to provide never-ending nourishment. 

Romans also had a tale about the origin of cornucopias. Hercules was wrestling with the horned river god, Achelous. During the fight the half-god Hercules tore off one of Achelous’ horns, which created the first cornucopia.

In North America, we have adopted the cornucopia as a traditional symbol of the Thanksgiving holiday and often use them as a table centerpiece. If you’re planning a large holiday dinner and haven’t thought about your centerpiece yet, Lilygrass has some great options available. Try our woven cornucopia basket filled with red standard roses, bronze chrysanthemum daisies, yellow button mum daisies, purple button mum daisies, burgundy kangaroo paws, burgundy pixie carnations, red hypericum berries, grevillea, and leather ferns. 

Decorating with cornucopia baskets is a great way to make your holiday more festive. Be sure to fill them to the brim and beyond to capture the spirit of the horn of plenty! Contact us today to place your Thanksgiving floral order.

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