Fridays are always the best day of the week. But June 2, 2023, promises to be even more special. That’s because it also happens to be National Donut Day! This makes it your civic duty to indulge in the fried treat. Surprisingly, the holiday was not established by donut makers to increase sales. Instead, it was started by volunteers from the Salvation Army to raise funds to help those in need.
The nonprofit's association with donuts began in 1917, when four female volunteers arrived in France to look after wounded World War I soldiers. To comfort the homesick troops, Margaret Sheldon and Helen Purviance used the limited ingredients available — flour, sugar, and oil — to make donuts.
Preparing the treats was no easy task. There were no rolling pins, donut cutters, or frying pans. The volunteers had to pat the dough by hand and cook the donuts — seven at a time — in a soldier's helmet. Despite working late into the night, they could only make about 150 donuts the first day and about 300 the next. But the effort was well worth it. The aroma of the fresh donuts brought much-needed cheer to the soldiers. They waited patiently for hours in cold and damp weather to obtain their treat.
Once fully equipped, the "Donut Lassies," as they were later called, dished out as many as 9,000 donuts a day! The fried dessert became a symbol of The Salvation Army's efforts to ease the hardships of American troops. It was also used to comfort soldiers during World War II (1939-1945) and the Vietnam War (1955-1975).
In 1938, the Chicago chapter of The Salvation Army set aside a day to sell donuts — made using the original WWI recipe — to the general public. The nonprofit planned to donate the funds to people affected by the Great Depression — the longest and deepest economic downturn in US history. The event was so popular that it became an annual tradition, and National Donut Day was born.
Over the years, many donut retailers have begun participating in the holiday by offering free or discounted treats. Krispy Kreme usually hands out one free donut to every customer who enters the store. Dunkin' Donuts does the same with the purchase of a beverage.
National Donut Day is not the only holiday dedicated to the dessert. Fans also observe National Jelly-Filled Donut Day on June 8, National Cream-Filled Donut Day on September 14, and National Donut Appreciation Day on November 5! With all these excuses to eat the yummy treat, it should come as no surprise that Americans consume over 10 billion donuts — an average of 33 per person — annually!
While donuts are an American tradition, similar sweets can be found worldwide. Indians enjoy a spiral, syrup-soaked treat called jalebi, while Tunisians devour honey-smothered fried pastries called yoyos. Indonesia's donat kentang is a ring-shaped fritter made from flour and mashed potatoes and coated with powdered sugar. The bottom line? You can celebrate the holiday no matter where you live!