There’s a Day for everything. March 14th is, of course, Pi Day. On December 13th, we apparently celebrate “Pick a Pathologist Pal Day” (??). And last but not least, there’s September 19th — International Talk Like a Pirate Day. It’s … it’s a lot. There are so many of these pseudo-holidays that it’s nearly impossible to keep track.
But, if you really want to stay on top of it, there’s a way — the National Day Calendar at http://nationaldaycalendar.com, and according to this great resource, today is National Doughnut Day. And of course, there’s Twitter, where unimportant moments of observation like this one often become trending topics. There’s a good chance that, by noon today, #NationalDoughnutDay will be at that list of common digital conversation topics.
Which is kind of weird because the first Friday in June is also National Doughnut Day.
Doughnuts are great, no question there, but really, they’re no better than most other junk food items and are markedly worse than chocolate chip cookies. And chocolate chip cookies get only one day — August 4th, if you’re planning ahead. Why would doughnuts get two?
It turns out that it doesn’t. Today’s National Doughnut Day is as empty as the center of the item it purports to celebrate.
The June date has a surprisingly storied history. During the first World War, members of the Salvation Army traveled to France to see how the auxiliary group could support American troops fighting abroad. They determined that having a home-away-from-home was a positive step forward — a place where the young men fighting a war could pause for something familiar. A total of 250 or so Salvation Army members, in teams of six (with at least four women per each group) set up canteens near the military encampments. Soldiers could stop by to get their clothes mended, pick up some stamps and paper so they could write a note home, and grab themselves a freshly baked snack. Those baked goods were often doughnuts because, as Mental Floss explains, the “battle-tested helmets were perfect for frying up to seven doughnuts at a time.” The women making and serving these treats — seen above — became known as Doughnut Girls or Doughnut Lassies.
Two decades after the war ended, with the nation in the throes of the Great Depression, the Salvation Army was looking for ways to help. The organization turned the history above into a fundraising opportunity. On or around Friday, June 3, 1938, they held the first ever National Doughnut Day, selling doughnuts both to raise money and to honor the Doughnut Lassies who went overseas. Their efforts were a success and, every year since, the Salvation Army uses the first Friday in June as a doughnut-centered tentpole for their fundraising initiatives.
Over the years, the day caught on. Many others — including many commercial entities — have joined in this day to celebrate the circular pastries. In June of this year, Dunkin’ Donuts, Krispy Kreme, Walmart (in the bakery department), and a ton of smaller places all gave away a free doughnut — some (e.g. Dunkin’) when you bought a beverage, and others (e.g. Krispy Kreme) with no strings attached beyond waiting in rather long lines.
But today? Few, if any, doughnut places will have a deal for you. And if you see anyone else celebrating, it’s almost certain that the cake is a lie. Or, at least, a good example of how easy it is to make a “Day” happen.
One of the first online records of November 5th getting the doughnut honor comes from a website called Foodimentary, which catalogs food-related Days. The author of that website, John Bryan Hopkins, explained to Boston.com that “when Foodimentary debuted in 2006, he didn’t have the benefit of vast Google reserves to build out a calendar. Instead, he says he bought old copies of Ladies Home Journal and hundreds of books cataloging unofficial holidays throughout history.” And one issue of Ladies Home Journal listed November 5th as National Doughnut Day. But no one else seemed to have adopted November 5th as a special day for doughnuts; but for the discovery of this one food blog, the date would have gone and gone this and every year, pastry-free.
Therefore, today’s fake holiday is, unfortunately for doughnut fans, extra fake. But it may have had a good reason for existing. While we don’t know origin story behind the November 5th celebration — the magazine didn’t go into it — it most likely it had to do with the date’s proximity to Veteran’s Day. Like the Salvation Army’s invented day, this one, too, connects the treat to those who served in World War I.
So while today isn’t the “real” National Doughnut Day, maybe treat yourself to one anyway.
From the Archives: Aromattic: Dunkin’ Donuts’ plan to lead your nose to its stores.