National Doughnut - or Donut -, Day is celebrated twice each year - in June and then again in November. But this seemingly whimsical excuse to indulge in munching on yummy donuts is actually a result of something deeper.
During World War I, the Salvation Army, a Christian charitable organization, looked for a way to help US troops abroad. A small group of male and female volunteers traveled to France with supplies and goods to distribute to soldiers stationed near the action. The soldiers, many of them waiting to be sent to the front lines, were thankful for these provisions. Additional volunteers continued to arrive and soon Salvation Army hostels and service centers could be found near military camps.
As troops endured a particularly long period of rain, extensive combat, and diminishing morale, two Salvation Army volunteers - Helen Purviance and Margaret Sheldon knew that the soldiers would benefit from some "home cooking", but rations were low and not easily replenished so they rummaged through their limited supplies for anything that could work.
With minimal ingredients at hand, the ladies decided on pancakes - until they realized that there wasn't any syrup and no way to get it. After more thought, they settled for doughnuts. The dough was rolled out with an empty wine bottle and shaped by hand before being fried in lard in a combat helmet on a wood-burning stove. The delicious smell of fresh fry cakes permeated the air around camp. The doughnuts were a success!
The women made more than one hundred doughnuts their first day, doubled it the next and increased staff and production on subsequent days until daily doughnut numbers were well into the thousands.
The Doughnut Girls, also known as the Salvation Army Donut Lassies and Doughnut Dollies, were a welcome sight whenever they arrived at the military camps to deliver the doughnuts that became a symbol of comfort for the troops abroad
In early June, 1938, The Salvation Army of Chicago honored their WWI Donut Lassies by holding a fundraiser to help people during the Great Depression. The Salvation Army continues to observe this tradition nationwide on the first Friday in June as the donut is now a symbol of comfort associated with their work. Doughnuts are still served by the Salvation Army to people in need during disaster, relief, and good-will programs.
How a second National Donut Day came about is sketchy. It is celebrated on November 5 and the origin of it varies. One theory is that it falls close to Veteran's Day and that may be the reason why. Others don't really care - as any reason to eat doughnuts is a good one. We tend to agree with this line of thinking.
Celebrate National Donut Days
What better way to celebrate National Donut Days 1 & 2 than by having doughnuts? Here are a few suggestions.
- Ask for a freebie. Many places offer a free doughnut to each visitor on the first National Doughnut Day in June, and some like Krispy Kreme and Dunkin' also do in November. Ask your favorite doughnut shop in your town if they participate.
- Try something different - deviate from your doughnut norm and try another flavor or style. Don't forget minis!
- Make or bake your own - there are tons of recipes online for all kinds of donuts (vegan, gluten free, sugar free, Keto, Paleo, baked, pan fry, air fried...). Do a web search for the type of donut you want.
Click HERE for the original recipe used by the Salvation Army Donut Lassies.
- Have a doughnut swap - make a batch or two and swap a few of each with friends so everyone has a mixed dozen. Write your recipe down and make copies to share.
- Tea and doughnuts - put the kettle on, pull out the tea set and fancy trays then invite friends to dress up and join you. Each person brings 2 doughnuts of their choice to the party - 1 to eat and 1 to share.
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