One of the country’s most delicious national food holidays has little to do with promoting a certain food item and watching businesses thrive financially from it. It is mainly about people and the nice gestures they can make for others while in distress.
And a nice hot doughnut can boost just about everyone’s morale, especially if you are a World War I soldier serving overseas, having no idea if you are to live to see another day.
During the WWI, a group of good-hearted women who had been volunteering for the Salvation Army had an inexpensive idea to help US soldiers overcome the hard days of war. They made doughnuts for them.
The move was such a pleasant surprise that a few years later, in 1938 to be more exact, the Salvation Army launched National Doughnut Day mainly to remind us of the kindness of those unnamed women.
That national food day was also supposed to raise people’s awareness of the organization’s oversea work and obtain some funds from selling the delicious dough rings. But the holiday is mainly about kindness and the freedom; freedom to warm somebody else’s heart with a simple gesture even when the world seems to fall apart.
During World War II, the tradition started by Salvation Army’s dough girls, as they were called, was continued by the Red Cross’s female volunteers.
Back then, Bob Landry, a LIFE photographer, took a series of pictures of the women in action. The magazine explained that the soldiers’ morale was not only boosted by the delicious treats. The women’s presence was a treat in itself, said journalists.
“They are hand-picked for looks, education, personality and experience in recreational fields. They are hardy physically and have a sociable, friendly manner,”
wrote a LIFE editor in a piece about the women.
The moment immortalized by Landry occurred in 1944. Soldiers were so happy to see the ladies that they greeted them with howls of delight and even went far enough to chant “doughnuts will win the war!” Just kidding, of course since there’s nothing fun about the war. But the spirits were lifted and may be lifted again every time doughnut fans learn that their favorite food once served a nobler purpose.
Some businesses seem to have understood the true spirit behind National Doughnut Day of giving not receiving since many of them have given away doughnuts as well.
For instance, America got her free doughnuts yesterday from Dunkin Donuts all day long on condition to order a beverage as well. The offer was open to everybody as long as the supplies lasted, the company announced since Thursday. Also, Entenmann’s said it would grant one lucky winner a year’s worth of free doughnuts and $1 to the Salvation Army for every new contestant. And the list can continue.
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