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A Cornucopia is usually shown as a horn shaped basket overflowing with food. It is used as a symbol of plenty and prosperity, but where did it come from?
The cornucopia comes from old Greek myths. In the old myths, Coronus, a Titan, overthrew his father, Uranus, and became the king of the universe. Gaia, Coronus’ mother, told him that one of his sons would take over the universe from him just like he took it over from his father. To prevent this from happening, Coronus swallowed all of his children when they were born. Rhea, Coronus’ wife, was angry that Coronus was swallowing her children. She came up with a plan to protect her next child. When the next child, Zeus, was born, Rhea gave a rock wrapped up in a baby blanket to Coronus. Coronus swallowed the rock because he thought it was Zeus. Rhea then gave her son Zeus to Amalthea.
Greek myths sometimes get mixed up over time. This is where this myth gets very mixed up. According to some versions of the myth, Amalthea was a goat that took care of Zeus. To honor Amalthea for her service, Zeus turned her into a star, set her in the sky, and made the Cornucopia from one of her horns.
Other versions of the Myth say that Amalthea was a Nymph who raised goats and fed Zeus on the milk of one her goats. Zeus played with the goat and accidentally broke off one of her horns. Amalthea took the horn and filled it with food and presented it to Zeus as a gift. Zeus took Amalthea’s gift and turned it into the Cornucopia.
These are the most common myths that talk about the making of the Cornucopia. There are other myths about how the Cornucopia was made. One talks about how Zeus wrestled with a horned river god and broke off one the river god’s horns. Zeus then turned the horn into the Cornucopia.
All the different myths about the Cornucopia say it was a magical horn that filled and overflowed with whatever the owner desired. The Cornucopia could fill up with food, drink or money, and would never run out.
Because of the myths, the Cornucopia is used as a symbol of plenty and prosperity. It has become the symbol of a hope for a bountiful harvest and is associated with harvest festivals. A Harvest Festival is a party that takes place after the harvest.
The feast that we call the First Thanksgiving was a harvest festival. The Pilgrims and Native Americans had a feast to celebrate the fact they had finished farming for the year and had enough food to last the winter. George Washington was the first American President to formally request a national day of Thanksgiving. President Washington said:
“Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be-- That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks--for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation--for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war--for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed” ("George Washington's Thanksgiving Proclamation. October 3, 1789". George Washington Papers. Library of Congress. Retrieved 2008-01-26)
Traditionally Thanksgiving has been a time to celebrate the bounty of the year. The Cornucopia has been a symbol of bounty since the time of Ancient Greece. What better symbol for our harvest festival than the Cornucopia.