Thanksgiving Symbols and Meanings

Each festival has its own customs and traditions, similarly each festival has some symbols associated with it.

Thanksgiving Symbols

Thanksgiving Day has its own set of symbols attached to it. When we talk of Thanksgiving, we think about Cornucopia, Pumpkin, Turkey, Corn, Cranberry, Beans, etc. These are Symbols of Thanksgiving.

Now all of these symbols are drawn on holiday decorations and greeting cards.

Below we have tried to describe these Thanksgiving Symbols and their significance.

Thanksgiving Symbols and Meanings :

Cornucopia :

Cornucopia - Thanksgiving Symbol

Also called the “horn of plenty,” a cornucopia is a horn shaped container filled with the seasonal flowers and fruits of the harvest. Earlier, a curved horn of a goat was used as cornucopia. According to Roman mythology, the cornucopia was the horn of Achelous, the river god, who impersonated a bull and fought with Hercules only to lose it during the battle. Being that Thanksgiving originated from the Native American Harvest celebrations it’s no surprise this Greek symbol of the harvest found its way into Thanksgiving symbols. The cornucopia also draws on the famous Greek mythical tale of a goat called Amalthaea whose horn could produce ambrosia and nectar which was the food and drink of the gods. She nursed the god Zeus when he was a baby and later also offered one of her horns to him as a sign of reverence. Zeus expressed his gratitude to Amalthea by setting her image in the sky as a pattern of stars known as the constellation Capricorn.

Turkey :

Turkey - Thanksgiving Symbol

The celebration of Thanksgiving will be incomplete without the legendary Turkey. No Thanksgiving celebration can ever be complete without the turkey, a large domesticated fowl with fan-shaped tail. The Turkey derives its name from the ‘turk turk’ sounds it makes when scared. The turkey is hunted and roasted during every annual Thanksgiving celebration and is generally the main course in the Thanksgiving dinner menu. The famous ‘Turkey’ adorns the table of every household as a main course during the celebration. The customary dinner is a reminder of the ‘Four Wild Turkeys’ served at the ‘First Thanksgiving Feast’. The festivity completes with the customary ‘Turkey Song’. The delicious taste of the roasted turkey is so much enjoyed that the bird has come to be one of the most important symbols of this holiday. It is believed that four roasted turkeys were served during the original Thanksgiving celebration and the turkeys enjoyed now serve as a remembrance of that historic event. But there are no authentic historical proofs to show whether turkeys indeed were a part of the first Thanksgiving feast.

Corn :

Corn - Thanksgiving Symbol

Corn is one of the popular symbols of thanksgiving. With It’s varieties of colors – red, white, yellow and blue it makes for a very interesting symbol. Some Americans considered blue and white corn to be sacred. It is believed that native Americans had been growing corn a long time before the pilgrims arrived in their country. The oldest corns date 7000 years back and were grown in Mexico. The Americans taught pilgrims how to grow corn and help them survive the bitter winter of 1620. The Corn eventually became a part of the first thanksgiving dinner and the tradition continues till date where the corn finds its place on every dinner table the world over and specially during the Thanksgiving dinner. Ornamental Corncobs are a favourite with the masses during the festival. Ornamental Corncobs are quite popular during the festival. They are used to decorate dining tables and make harvest wreaths- A popular gift item among Americans. Ornamental popcorns are also widely used. Corn reminds us of the importance and heritage of the famous harvest festival. It also remains America’s foundation of ‘Modern-Agriculture ‘.

Cranberry :

Cranberry - Thanksgiving Symbol

Cranberry, is a symbol and a modern diet staple of thanksgiving. A type of berry, the cranberry was actually known as “crane berry”, it derived its name from its pink blossoms and drooping head which reminded the pilgrim of a crane. The name was later changed to what is popularly known as Cranberry. Pilgrims soon found out a way to sweeten the bitten cranberries with maple sugar. Ever since cranberry sauce is a permanent companion of turkey during thanksgiving feast.

Pumpkins or Pumpkin Pie:

Pumpkin - Thanksgiving Symbol

Another modern staple at almost every Thanksgiving table is the customary ‘Pumpkin Pie’ and serves as one of the most important symbols of the harvest festival since the late sixteenth century. While pumpkin leaves are used as salads, pumpkin pies form a dessert in the annual Thanksgiving dinner menu. It is not sure whether pumpkin was one of the dishes in the first thanksgiving dinner. Pilgrims probably made a pumpkin dish sweetened with honey or syrup. They were however a part of all traditional meals long before the arrival of pilgrims. The pumpkin however was available in the area and the local Native Americans considered it a symbol of the life giving sun and a symbol of man’s personal power. Pumpkins is also a autumn harvested vegetable which could explain it’s strong association with the harvest and Thanksgiving. According to historians, other seasonal vegetables included squash. People at that time were not particularly fond of vegetables, they were mostly meat eaters. Pumpkin is one of the important symbols of the harvest festival and has been an American-favourite for over 400 years now.

Beans :

Beans - Thanksgiving Symbol

A special thanksgiving symbol for Americans, beans remind them of the year 1620 when the local natives taught their ancestors, the Plymouth pilgrims, how to grow beans next to cornstalks. It proved useful when they found that the beans could use corstalks as their pole when they grew. Beans are an inseperable part of modern thanksgiving feasts and are famously known as one of the ‘Three sisters’.

Autumn Leaves :

Autumn Leaves - Thanksgiving Symbol

Another decoration we commonly see around Thanksgiving. This symbol has a pretty cut and dry meaning, autumn and fall. It’s suggested this symbol has more to do with pretty presentation that actual symbolism.

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