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A Holiday Vocabulary

November 14, 2016
By Heidi Maness Hartwiger - Natural Parent, Natural Child Series , OVParent

Have you noticed each holiday arrives with a special vocabulary? Here comes November, and Thanksgiving is on the horizon. Consider the seasonal words that creep into our conversations: gratitude, thankfulness, family gatherings, turkey hotline, the perfect stuffing, and the infamous declaration, "I'm stuffed, but I'll make room for dessert." Thanksgiving announces the season of the cornucopia, the traditional decorative basket of cascading fruits and vegetables.

In polling my four adult children recently, I found that cornucopia was the word they most associated with childhood Thanksgivings. Each recalled the annual Thanksgiving dustup of how to correctly pronounce cornucopia. It was only a matter of time until I heard "Mom!" in that urgent tone that caused me to don my referee cap. Sometimes it was Sandy, the youngest and peacemaker of the crew, but more often it was Jenny, Lucy to her three Charlie Brown brothers, who pulled me into the pronunciation debate. Is it "corn-u" "corn-oo" or "corn-a" -copia?"

Rarely did I have a chance to give a definitive answer because the little peacemaker would say, "Let's just call it the horn of plenty."

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That was the signal for me to tell the annual horn of plenty tale.

The horn of plenty has roots in Greek mythology. There are variations of the horn of plenty, but some ideas remain constant. This is my story to the kids Thanksgiving after Thanksgiving. I called it a pocket story - short, sweet, and easy to tell.

"Long ago in the Fifth Century B.C. there was a baby born named Zeus who would grow up to be the most powerful of the Greek gods. The infant's life was in danger, so he was hidden in a cave. In the cave there lived a nanny goat named Almathea who took care of him and nourished him with her milk. As little Zeus grew, the only companion he knew was Almathea. One day he was playing and grabbed one of her curved horns. The horn broke off in his strong little hand. This horn had a special power that provided neverending nourishment for Zeus. When he was grown and powerful, as a sign of gratitude for Almathea's good care, he sent the goat's image into the sky. It is the constellation Capricorn."

On Thanksgiving night, weather permitting, we walked outside and scanned the November sky for Orion the Hunter and Capricorn.

Whether you call it cornucopia or horn of plenty, this has become a seasonal decoration of fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains, flowers and herbs. Some consider this symbolic of America's thankfulness for all good things that life has brought.

It also has been assimilated into our pop culture. At the 1906 St. Louis World's Fair, the waffle cone, called "World's Fair Cornucopia," was introduced. This huge treat was filled with, you guessed it, lots of ice cream.

So if it should become your Thanksgiving role to pronounce cornucopia, go for horn of plenty.

Heidi Maness Hartwiger, a Wheeling native, is a writer, teacher and storyteller. She is a mother of four and a grandmother of five.



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