What Is National Donut Day?

B. Turner

National Donut Day is an unofficial annual holiday in the United States. It is celebrated on the first Friday of June each year. This holiday is meant to pay tribute to the donut, or doughnut, a popular sweet treat in the United States. In addition to celebrating this round pastry, National Donut Day is also meant to serve as a tribute to female charity workers who volunteered to serve the troops during World War I. On this holiday, many donut shops give out free samples, while others focus more on the charitable side of this holiday by volunteering time or money.


The history of National Donut Day can be traced back to 1917. During this time, the Chicago, Illinois branch of the Salvation Army called for female volunteers to help lift the moral of troops fighting in World War I. The Salvation Army set up a series of small huts or houses overseas along the fighting front where troops could enjoy a short break and a bit of hospitality. These huts were staffed by female volunteers, known as donut lassies. The donut lassies provided freshly baked donuts and hot coffee to the troops in an effort to keep their spirits high during the long days overseas.

Chocolate glazed donuts.
Chocolate glazed donuts.

This practice ended after World War I, but the tradition of service from the Salvation Army continued. During the 1930s the organization worked to raise money to feed the needy, many of whom were out of work due to the Great Depression. In 1938, the Chicago Salvation Army decided to pay tribute to the brave donut lassies of World War I by declaring the first National Donut Day. The organization sold paper donuts as part of a charitable drive to feed the hungry, and also distributed real donuts to people throughout the city.

Today National Donut Day is still widely celebrated as a fun, unofficial holiday. Many popular donut chains and independent bakeries offer free donuts on this day. Others provide samples, or offer special deals. Some give a free donut to every visitor, while others provide a donut at no cost only if some other item is purchased, such as coffee.

Of course, the Salvation Army still works to remind people of the true focus behind this day. The group encourages the public to celebrate by making a donation of time or money. All donations are used to help feed needy people, and may be used for food pantries, soup kitchens, or programs designed to feed children or the elderly.

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