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It’s National Doughnut Day again? The strange story of why we celebrate twice

The first National Doughnut Day (in June) can be traced back to the 1938. But the origin of November’s National Doughnut Day aren’t as clear. (Getty Images)

(NEXSTAR) – No, you’re not experiencing déjà vu. It really is National Doughnut Day. Again.

National Doughnut Day, a holiday largely celebrated on the first Friday of June, is also observed in early November, usually the 5th or the 10th. But unlike its earlier counterpart, November’s observance is lesser known, lesser celebrated and arguably lesser understood.

The first National Doughnut Day (in June) can be traced back to the year 1938, when the Salvation Army commemorated a group of volunteers who traveled overseas during WWI to provide support to the troops. These volunteers would also fry up doughnuts on the front lines, which is said to have helped popularize the treat among returning GIs, according to the Salvation Army.

In honor of these “Donut Lassies,” the Salvation Army hosted the first National Doughnut Day in Chicago in 1938.

The origins of November’s National Doughnut Day aren’t so well documented. John Bryan Hopkins, the founder of Foodimentary, once told that he traced mentions of November’s observance back to the ‘30s, but didn’t know much about its origins. He believed, however, that this “mini-holiday” was created by retailers to coincide with Veterans Day.

Another story, shared with the U.S. Naval Institute and posted to its official blog, also ties the holiday to America’s servicemen. Angie Williams, the wife of Orson Swindle, a U.S. Marine during the Vietnam War, claimed that her husband “invented” National Doughnut Day when he was a prisoner of war at the Sơn Tây prison camp in Hanoi.

Williams claims that in September of 1969, Swindle was told during an interrogation that the U.S. wasn’t old enough to have any notable holidays of its own. Swindle “pretended to take umbrage,” she said, and falsely claimed that National Doughnut Day — which he said was celebrated on Nov. 10 — was one of the biggest for Americans.

When asked how it was celebrated, Swindle allegedly said people dressed in costumes, attended festivals and, of course, ate doughnuts. He did this, according to Williams, in the hopes that he and his fellow POWs would be treated to a sticky-bun-like treat that the camp’s captors rarely served.

“A few weeks went by, and to everyone’s great surprise, on November 10 the prisoners at Son Tay prison — known for being one of the worst —and also for the failed rescue attempt — were served sticky buns and — Orson was the hero of the day!” his wife claimed.

In her letter, Williams however admits that her husband never revealed any of this to her, but rather that a fellow POW recounted his story to a newspaper.

In any case, National Doughnut Day is indeed so nice that it’s celebrated twice — and it’s not just a sweet case of doughnut-déjà vu.


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