Like other people around the world, when people in North America started to get more of their food from farming, starting about 1 AD, they also began to hold harvest festivals every year to celebrate a successful harvest with plenty of food to eat for the next year. People thanked the gods for sending a good harvest. We call this the Green Corn Ceremony.
Pueblo people, for instance, dressed up as their ancestors and danced carrying evergreen (pine) branches to symbolize green growing things. They celebrated in June, because in Arizona corn ripens in June.
Cherokee and Shawnee people honored the Corn Mother at their Green Corn Ceremony. First everyone went and washed themselves in a river and fasted (didn’t eat). Then they danced inside a sacred circle, showing how they planted and harvested the corn. At the center of the circle was a fire pit with a bonfire in it. The holiday lasted for four days. People cleaned out their houses and burned the things from the last year, and started fresh with new clothes and new things. They ended any arguments and started their friendships fresh too. And of course, people ate lots of roasted corn, popcorn, and other treats!
People who came to North America from Europe after 1500 AD took many ideas from the Green Corn Ceremony and carried them over into today’s North American holiday of Thanksgiving.