National Donut Day is celebrated every year on the first Friday of June (Credit: Salvation Army)

Donut lovers, rejoice! Friday, June 4, 2021, is National Donut Day. That means it is your civic duty to consume at least one — or even a dozen — of the delicious confections. The fun US holiday, observed annually on the first Friday of June, was started in 1938 by the Salvation Army to help raise funds for those in need.

The nonprofit's association with donuts began in 1917, when a team of female volunteers arrived in France to tend to injured World War I soldiers. To lift the spirits of the homesick troops, Ensign Margaret Sheldon and Adjutant Helen Purviance used the limited ingredients available — flour, sugar, lard, baking powder, cinnamon, and canned milk — to make donuts.

Margaret Sheldon and Helen Purviance decided to make donuts to cheer homesick troops during World War I (Credit: Salvation Army)

With no rolling pins or pans at their disposal, the volunteers patted the dough by hand and used a soldier's helmet to fry the treats. Despite working late into the night, the women made only about 150 donuts the first day and about three hundred the next. However, the fresh donut aroma was enough to cheer the soldiers, who patiently waited for hours in the cold and damp weather to receive their treat. Once properly equipped, the "Donut Lassies," as they were later called, churned out as many as 9,000 donuts a day! The sugary rings — also used to comfort frontline soldiers during World War II (1939-1945) and the Vietnam War (1955-1975) — became a symbol of the Salvation Army's efforts to ease the hardships of the American troops.

In June 1938, Salvation Army volunteers in Chicago came up with the brilliant idea of selling donuts — made using the original WWI recipe — to raise much-needed funds for people impacted by the Great Depression. The event was so popular that it became an annual fixture, and National Donut Day was born.

During WWI the "Donut Lassies" made as many as 9,000 donuts daily (Credit: Salvation Army)

Over the years, many donut manufacturers and retailers have joined in the celebrations by handing out free or discounted treats. This year, Krispy Kreme will give one free donut to all customers and two donuts to those who present proof of receiving the Covid-19 vaccine. LaMar's Donuts plans to offer a free donut to all military and public-safety service personnel that visit their stores on Friday. The company has also partnered with the Salvation Army to distribute the treats to hospital workers, police officers, and firefighters in Denver, Colorado.

While donuts, as we recognize them, are an American tradition, similar sweets can be found worldwide. Indians enjoy a spiral, sugar syrup-soaked treat called jalebi, while Tunisians devour honey-smothered fried pastries called yoyos. Indonesia's donut kentang is made using mashed potatoes and coated with powdered sugar. The bottom line? You can celebrate the holiday no matter where you live!

Happy National Donut Day!