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While Fridays are always the best day of the week, June 1 promises to be even more special. That’s because it also happens to be National Donut Day, which means it is your civic duty to consume one, or even a dozen, of the delicious fried treats! Surprisingly, the holiday was not established by donut manufacturers to boost sales, but by the Salvation Army to help raise much-needed funds for the needy.
The non-profit’s affiliation with donuts began in 1917 when volunteers arrived in France to tend to injured World War I (WWI) soldiers. To comfort the homesick troops, Salvation Army Ensign Margaret Sheldon and fellow officer Helen Purviance used the limited ingredients at their disposal – flour, sugar, and oil – to make donuts.
The tempting aroma of fresh donuts brought much-needed cheer to the US troops who lined outside the service hut, often waiting patiently for hours in cold and damp weather, to get their hands on the special treat. The “Donut Lassies,” as they were later called, were soon dishing out as many as 9,000 pieces daily. The success spurred the non-profit to use the treats to lift the spirits of US soldiers during World War II and the Vietnam War. In 1938, during the Great Depression, the Chicago chapter of the Salvation Army revived the tradition outside of wartime by using the WWI donut recipe to raise funds. It was so popular that National Donut Day became an annual event.
The holiday has since been adopted nationwide by donut manufacturers and retailers who often celebrate the occasion by handing out free or discounted treats. This year, Krispy Kreme and LaMar’s Donuts will give a free donut to all customers, while Dunkin Donuts will offer one with the purchase of a beverage. Many neighborhood stores also participate in this fun tradition, so be sure to check to visit the one closest to you.
In case you miss the chance to indulge your sweet tooth this Friday, November 5 has also been designated National Donut Day. While nobody is sure of the origin, or reason, for a second holiday in honor of the sugary breakfast, it does provide another valid excuse to eat donuts. Want more? June 8 is National Jelly-Filled Donut Day, and September 14 happens to be National Cream-Filled Donut Day! Given all these celebrations, it is not surprising to hear that Americans consume over 10 billion donuts annually.
Though donuts are primarily an American tradition, similar treats are enjoyed by countries around the world. In the Horn of Africa (Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, and Eritrea), residents feast on ball-shaped Lagayamats that are fried and covered with powdered sugar, while Tunisians enjoy honey-covered Yoyos. India has a savory version called Vada, while Indonesians make their Donut Kentang with mashed potatoes and flour. The bottom line is, you can celebrate the holiday regardless of where you reside.