A holey holiday: The history behind National Doughnut Day

An ode to 'My Doughnut Girl'
In 1919, composer Billy Frisch wrote the song "Don't Forget the Salvation Army (My Doughnut Girl)." The full lyrics are available from Mississippi State University.
Wikimedia Commons

This article was originally published in 2015. Parts of it have been updated.

Friday is National Doughnut Day — an entry in the long, delicious string of food-centric holidays that includes National Hot Dog Day and National Guacomole Day. (There are actually two guacamole days: spicy and not.)

For the most part, these calorie-packed holidays are cooked up by marketing companies and food corporations. The roots of today's holey day, however, reach back to World War I.

National Doughnut Day began as a way to honor the "doughnut lassies" — women who volunteered with the Salvation Army to bring doughnuts and coffee to soldiers on the front lines. According to the Salvation Army, 250 volunteers traveled to France during the war to provide home-cooked meals, letter-writing supplies and, of course, doughnuts, to troops.

Doughnuts turned out to be an ideal wartime treat: Two enterprising volunteers figured out how to fry them, seven at a time, in soldiers' helmets.

Though volunteers later retired the helmet-frying technique, doughnut delivery continued in World War II. The American Red Cross operated Clubmobiles — buses outfitted with coffee makers and doughnut fryers — to bring a taste of home to soldiers in England.

The volunteers' job was literally sugar-coated, but that doesn't mean it wasn't difficult. "Sometimes they hadn't had a bath for several days," according the National Archives' Prologue magazine. "Often they smelled of doughnut grease; always their hands were red and raw."

The Salvation Army made the celebration of the "doughnut lassies"' efforts official in 1938 when it declared the first Friday of June to be National Doughnut Day.

So how can you celebrate this deep-fried, sugar-coated patriotic day? The Twin Cities boasts more than a baker's dozen of beloved shops.

Where to grab a doughnut in the Twin Cities

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