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Though few people need an excuse to bite into a warm, gooey donut, it is always nice to have one. And what better reason to justify eating the treat than the fact that it is National Donut Day! Observed annually on the first Friday of June, the origins of this yummy holiday can be traced all the way back to World War I.
In 1917, soon after the US entered the war, a fact-finding mission sent by the Salvation Army concluded that the soldiers would benefit from a “hut” that would provide them baked goods, postal supplies, and laundry services. So the charitable organization dispatched 250 women volunteers or “donut lassies” as they were later called, to help the soldiers. With only basic ingredients like flour, sugar, and oil, at their disposal, fresh donuts became the “baked” treats of choice. Not surprisingly, the sugary rings were an instant hit with the homesick soldiers.
In 1938, during the country’s third worst recession, Salvation Army volunteers in Chicago decided to honor the donut lassies and try lift the spirits of the locals by organizing a donut day. The event that doubled up as a fundraiser was so successful that it became an annual tradition. The fun holiday was adopted by cities across the nation and soon, the first Friday of June became known as National Donut Day.
Over the years, national and local donut shops, as well as grocery stores, have joined in the celebrations with various promotions. At Krispy Kreme, customers can receive a free donut of their choice by simply visiting a store. East Coast-based Duck Donuts is offering the same with a slight twist — Donut lovers have to obtain a coupon from the company’s Facebook page. At Dunkin Donuts, patrons are required to buy a drink to claim their free treat, while Tim Hortons is giving away six for just $2.99 USD. Even grocery store chain Giant Eagle Inc. has embraced the holiday by offering customers six free donuts for every six purchased. If none of these stores are nearby you may want to head to your local donut store and see how they are celebrating the day.
Donuts or doughnuts as they are often spelled, were introduced to America in the 1800’s by Dutch immigrants who called them olykoeks or oily cakes. Though donuts as we know them now are an American treat, similar sweets are enjoyed by other countries are well. Residents of the African nations of Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, and Eritrea, make fried ball-shaped treats covered in powdered sugar called Lagayamats, while those living in India prefer savory versions called vada. Tunisians call their donut-like treat yo-yo and smother it in honey and sesame seeds while Indonesians make theirs with mashed potatoes and flour. Hence, as you can see, this fun American holiday can be celebrated no matter where you live! So go ahead and take a bite of a fresh, hot donut, olykoek, vada or whatever treat your heart desires.