Thanksgiving Symbols and Meanings


thanksgiving symbols turkeyTurkeys, pumpkins, pie, cornucopias and tiny black hats: these are all things that commonly are visualized when one hears the word, “Thanksgiving,” but why? Why do we consider such things Thanksgiving symbols? 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 or how they came to be symbols in the first place, look no further.

Thanksgiving symbols: The Turkey:

This is actually a bit of a mystery. There is no proof that turkey was even eaten at the first Thanksgivings. We eat turkey on Thanksgiving because wild turkey was more available to the colonists, who turned the harvest celebrations into a holiday, than goose. Goose was the traditional feast eaten in England in honor of the harvest. However, Turkey was a symbol of abundance and fertility to the Native American people who started Thanksgiving, so this symbol is fitting whether it was at the pilgrim’s Thanksgiving or not.

Thanksgiving Symbols: The Cornucopia:thanksgiving symbols cornucopia

Also called the “horn of plenty,” a cornucopia is a horn shaped container filled with the fruits of the harvest. Being that Thanksgiving originated from Native American Harvest celebrations, it’s no surprise this Greek symbol of the harvest found its way into Thanksgiving symbols. Traditionally, the cornucopia was a goat’s horn given to the God Zeus as a gift.

Thanksgiving Symbols: Corn:

We often see dried corn husks or colorful dried corn cobs around Thanksgiving and the autumn season. This is because corn was one of the primary foods of the Native Americans. It was also one of the crops they taught the pilgrim’s to grow which saved them from starvation. Corn is thought to be a symbol of agriculture and a healthy harvest.

thanksgiving symbols pilgrimsThanksgiving Symbols: Black Hats, Pilgrims and Indians:

This is kind of obvious, but the black hats with buckles represent the Pilgrims. Sometimes we see actual tiny pilgrims or Indians as well. These symbols sprang from the story of what many consider to be the “First Thanksgiving” while this is actually a Thanksgiving myth, these things still have became a symbol of Thanksgiving to represent the friendship and appreciation we show for others during Thanksgiving– no matter how different we may be.

Thanksgiving Symbols: Pumpkins or Pumpkin Pie:

There is actually, again, no proof pumpkins or even pumpkin pie was present at the first Thanksgivings. 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. Pumpkin is also an autumn harvested vegetable, which could explain it’s strong association with the harvest and Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving Symbols: Autumn Leaves:

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 than actual symbolism.

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