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Thanksgiving symbols and their meanings

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Thanksgiving symbols and their meanings
September 02, 2018 Holiday Thanks 5 comments

    Nov. 27, 2014

Learn the meaning behind your favorite festive foods.

Thanksgiving has arrived! Here is a quick look at the symbolism of the major staples of the Thanksgiving meal.

Turkey, an American original, reminds us that God provides now just as he did in the days when his chosen people wandered in the desert. As Psalm 105 puts it: “They asked for meat, and he sent them quail.” The pilgrims could say the same thing. God provided them a bigger (and better tasting) bird in the turkey — and turkeys are still found wild in America today.

Mashed potatoes remind us of the goodness of the earth God has given us. As Pslam 104 puts it: “He makes plants for people to cultivate — bringing forth food from the earth.” That applies even more to potatoes: a food that is pulled out of the earth itself. They were unknown in Europe until the discovery of America.

Cranberry sauce, another American original, is a little too tangy, a little too bitter for many people. Like the bitter herbs at the Seder, the sour cranberry can remind us of the religious persecution the pilgrims were escaping when they came here. Isaiah speaks of the kingdom of God to come: “In those days, they shall no longer say, ‘The parents ate unripe grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.’”

Pumpkin pie’s signature flavor comes from nutmeg, a highly valued spice that crossed Christian and Muslim cultures in the Middle Ages, and pumpkins are found on all the continents of the world except for Antarctica. Think of pumpkin pie as the Old World’s contribution to the Thanksgiving table. And Christ added the old to the new when he praised “the head of a household who brings from his storeroom both the new and the old.”


Adapted from this past User's Guide to Sunday.

Tom and April Hoopes write from

Atchison, Kansas, where Tom is

writer in residence at Benedictine College.

Meaning of Thanksgiving

Meaning of Thanksgiving - The Real Celebration
For many of us, the meaning of Thanksgiving usually includes feasting, four-day weekends, football games, floats, family reunions, or a forerunner to Christmas festivities. The “first Thanksgiving,” however, was neither a feast nor a holiday, but a simple gathering. Following the Mayflower’s arrival at Plymouth Rock on December 11, 1620, the Pilgrims suffered the lost of 46 of their original 102 colonists. With the help of 91 Indians, the remaining Pilgrims survived the bitter winter and yielded a bountiful harvest in 1621. In celebration, a traditional English harvest festival, lasting three days brought the Pilgrims and natives to unite in a “thanksgiving” observance.

This “thanksgiving” meal would not be celebrated again until June of 1676. On June 29 the community of Charlestown, Massachusetts proclaimed a day of thanksgiving for their good fortune. Ironically, this celebration excluded the Indians, as the colonists’ recognized their recent victory over the “heathen natives.” One hundred years later, in October of 1777, all 13 colonies participated in a one-time “thanksgiving” celebration which commemorated the patriotic victory over the British at Saratoga. It would take a span of over 150 more years to establish Thanksgiving as we celebrate it -- George Washington proclaimed it a National holiday in 1789, Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday in November in 1863, and Congress sanctioned it as a legal holiday in 1941.

Meaning of Thanksgiving - Expressions of Gratitude
The meaning of Thanksgiving has undergone numerous transitions -- an expression of gratitude for survival, a council’s recognition of its flourishing community, submission of the local natives, the defeat over the British, resulting in a collection of our nation’s traditions and values. Over the centuries, families added their customs to the Thanksgiving celebration, preserving that which they held most precious.

  • To gather in unity – It is refreshing and invigorating when people come together, in celebration of a common purpose. It is a reconciliation of differences as well as a time of healing. In sharing our victories as well as our struggles, we find strength and hope.
  • To teach the young – In stories retold, each generation brings purpose and significance to the richness of their heritage. Faded pictures, sentimental knick-knacks, even the prayer of Thanksgiving before the meal all form a Thanksgiving family legacy.
  • To prepare the heart – In gratitude, we humbly reflect upon all the gifts (family, friends, health) that saturate our lives. By “giving-thanks” we choose to extend ourselves and give to others less fortunate. Out of the abundance of our hearts, we are able to offer our resources to help others.

Meaning of Thanksgiving - Praise to God
In the Bible, the meaning of thanksgiving reflected adoration, sacrifice, praise, or an offering. Thanksgiving was a grateful language to God as an act of worship. Rarely, if ever, was thanksgiving extended to any person or thing, except God. “These things I remember as I pour out my soul; how I used to go with the multitude, leading the procession to the house of God, with shouts of joy and thanksgiving among the festive throng” (Psalm 42:4). Long before the colonists celebrated their successes, Nehemiah assembled two great choirs to give thanks for God’s faithfulness in rebuilding the wall. “ . . . The Levites were sought out from where they lived and were brought to Jerusalem to celebrate joyfully and dedication with songs of thanksgiving and with the music of cymbals, harps, and lyres” (Nehemiah 12:27).

The true meaning of Thanksgiving focuses upon relationship. Thanksgiving is a relationship between God and man. Upon their arrival at New Plymouth, the Pilgrims composed The Mayflower Compact, which honored God. Thanksgiving begins with acknowledging God as faithful, earnestly giving Him thanks, in advance, for His abundant blessings. “. . . In everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6). Thanksgiving is an attitude of the heart that reinforces an intimate relationship with God.

Learn the History of Thanksgiving!

Learn the history and meaning of symbols for Thanksgiving from a Christian perspective.

Ready, or not – the holiday season is upon us and Thanksgiving is less than a week away! Thanksgiving is a special holiday for many reasons, but what makes it so unique is the fact that it is the one major holiday where the meal is the main event.

Not only that, but It is also the holiday that will set the tone for the remainder of the holiday season. So why not make it beautiful with a cornucopia of your own, or some Thanksgiving flowers from Eastern Floral?

Harvest Centerpiece by Eastern Floral

According to lore, Thanksgiving began as the celebration of a bountiful harvest. It was – and still is – a time to reflect and give thanks through a meal shared with friends and loved ones.

One of the most iconic symbols of Thanksgiving is the cornucopia. Typically hollow and made out of wicker in the shape of a horn, it is often called the “horn of plenty.” Cornucopias represent an abundance of food and nourishment and serve as a visible reminder of the meaning of the holiday while also giving the table a finished, polished, look.

While cornucopias are most closely associated with Thanksgiving, their origin can be traced all the way back to Greek and Roman mythology. Cornucopias are even depicted on the state flags of Idaho and Wisconsin, as well as the coats of arms for Columbia, Panama, Peru, and Venezuela.

With food being the center of attention at Thanksgiving, the table itself an important part of the holiday as it often serves as the hub of the day’s activities. Long after the food is enjoyed and the dishes are put away, the cornucopia and other autumn-inspired centerpieces remain to serve as a reminder of the prosperity and good things in life for which we give thanks.

It’s never too soon to start thinking about Christmas

Since Thursday is Thanksgiving, that means Black Friday is here as well to kick off the official start of the holiday shopping season. Wouldn’t it be nice if you already had your holiday shopping done before the calendar even turned to December?

You’re in luck because Eastern Floral is your one-stop-shop for all your holiday needs. Of course, flowers always make an outstanding gift, but we also carry a wide assortment of other holiday presents for everyone on your list.

Make things extra-easy for yourself and order your holiday flowers and gifts at the same time you place your Thanksgiving order. Let everyone else fight the traffic and the crowds while you enjoy the holiday season from the comfort of your own couch, knowing your shopping is already complete!

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thanksgiving symbols and their meanings

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Ever since 1863, when it became a national holiday in the United States, American families have come together to celebrate Thanksgiving with family and friends. Officially, it is a day to express thanks for the blessings they received and enjoyed. Admittedly, the holiday took a long time to form, yet it became one of the most awaited holidays annually in the country, and is regarded as one of only two nondenominational events in the US.

With the long weekend, the opportunity to connect again with family and friends, it is no wonder that people make a big deal out of Thanksgiving. As such, it has spawned a lot of symbols that live on until today. Here are the top five most memorable Thanksgiving symbols.


5. Cornucopia
The cornucopia or horn of plenty is actually a symbol for bountiful harvests that originated from the Greek legends, wherein a goat named Amalthea presented one of its horns to the god Zeus. Cornucopias were once fashioned out of hollowed out goats’ horns, which were then filled with fruits and vegetables from a recent harvest.

The first Thanksgiving feast coincided with the Keepunumuk, or the harvest time for the Wampanoag, the Native American neighbors of the Mayflower pilgrims.

4. Corn
Corn actually livens up the dinner table on Thanksgiving. More than just providing delicious dinner fare (from corn muffins, soup, to various recipes featuring corn), corn was also part of the first Thanksgiving feast between the pilgrims and the native Americans.

It was also one of the crops that the Native Americans taught our forefathers to plant, and helped them survive their first bitter winter.

The tradition continues on today, wherein corn graces the dinner table on Thanksgiving.


3. Pilgrims
Thanksgiving not only commemorates the blessings people received for the past year. It also commemorates the gratitude of the Mayflower Pilgrims to their Native American neighbors who helped them after their departure from England in the 17th century.

It is said that after the Native Americans helped the pilgrims survive even through winter and taught them how to plant crops, they showed their appreciation by holding a feast.

Today, paper cutouts and statuettes of both pilgrims and Native American adorn almost every American home during the Thanksgiving celebrations.


2. Beans and Cranberry
It is believed that Native Americans taught the pilgrims to grow beans alongside their corn, which provided poles for the beans to grow on. As such, beans became part of the Thanksgiving tradition for the same reasons as corn.

Cranberries are also an important Thanksgiving symbol. It is said that pilgrims first learned to sweeten cranberries with sugar making it a great sauce. Up to this day, no Thanksgiving turkey is served without cranberry sauce.


1. Turkey
It seems that every Thanksgiving dinner needs to have a turkey. More than providing a sumptuous feast, the turkey is actually a commemoration of the first Thanksgiving dinner wherein wild turkeys were believed to have been butchered and served. For the record, however, it could have been any other fowl.

Since then, every American household always roasted turkeys and served them on Thanksgiving. The turkey has been strongly associated with Thanksgiving that the day is sometimes referred to as "Turkey Day" and there is the "Turkey Song" that is aptly sung after the dinner.

This entry was posted in Home and Living, Top 5 and Top 10 and tagged bountiful harvests, corn muffins, cornucopia, delicious dinner, first thanksgiving feast, fruits and vegetables, god zeus, holidays, home, mayflower pilgrims, memorable thanksgiving, native american neighbors, nativity, thanksgiving, thanksgiving symbols, wampanoag by Michael Gabriel. Bookmark the permalink.
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Symbols of Thanksgiving. The Cornucopia s a symbol of nature's productivity. sky known to us today as the constellation Capricorn, to show his gratitude.

Food for Thought: Rutgers Scholar Examines Symbolism of Thanksgiving Holiday

Thanksgiving Day Symbols

Like most other festivals, Thanksgiving Day has its own set of symbols attached to it. Go through this informative article to know about those special things that have come to represent Thanksgiving Day, the images of which conjure the glimpses of past Thanksgiving celebrations for us. If you like reading this article on "Thanksgiving Day Symbols", click here and forward this article to all your friends and dear ones. May you have a grand Thanksgiving Day celebration.
No Thanksgiving celebration can ever be complete without the turkey, a large domesticated fowl with fan-shaped tail. Owing its name perhaps to the unique "turk, turk" sound it makes, the turkey is hunted and roasted during every annual Thanksgiving celebration and is generally the main course in the Thanksgiving dinner menu. 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.

Also known as the 'horn of plenty', the Cornucopia is a symbol of nature's productivity and is regarded as one of the greatest symbols of Thanksgiving Day. Traditionally, a cornucopia is a curved container that is filled with fruits and grains upto the brim to symbolise a good harvest. In olden times, 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. 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. Nowadays, a horn-shaped container or basket is used as the cornucopia and filled to the brim with seasonal flowers and fruits as a sign of good harvest.

The corn is one of the most popular Thanksgiving symbols for Americans. Back in the 1620s when the pilgrims desperately tried their hands at farming for their survival, they were provided with great assistance by the native Americans who taught them how to grow corn and help them survive the bitter winter. When the first Thanksgiving feast was held, Naturally, the corn became a part of the first thanksgiving dinner and it is still enjoyed during every Thanksgiving celebrations. It is still placed on every dinner table during annual Thanksgiving festivities around the world. Corn reminds Americans of the history and significance of Thanksgiving and remains America's foundation of 'Modern-Agriculture '. Interestingly, Americans regard corns of blue and white colours to be sacred, perhaps because of they echo the hues of the U.S national flag.

The Pumpkin forms one of the most important ingredients of a Thanksgiving dinner 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 and is a favorite American dish.

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'.

A type of berry, the cranberry was actually known as "crane berry", owing its name to its pink blossoms and drooping head which looked like a crane to the Pilgrims. Crane berries are bitter in taste but the pilgrims managed to make it palatable with maple sugar. It is believed to have been a part of the first Thanksgiving dinner menu and is still served along with the main ingredient turkey during every Thanksgiving feast.



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thanksgiving symbols and their meanings

WATCH THE VIDEO ON THEME: The First Thanksgiving: What Really Happened

Every symbol has its significance or at least a history of how it came to represent a holiday. If you've ever wondered just what Thanksgiving symbols mean.

thanksgiving symbols and their meanings
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