Sponsored by the American Pie Council (yes, that’s a real thing!), National Pie Day lets us enjoy one of our favorite desserts guilt-free. After all, we’re celebrating a national holiday!
While pie exists in some form all over the world, the United States has an inextricable relationship with the flaky dessert. From Don McLean’s epic song “American Pie” to expressions like “as American as apple pie,” our country embraces the pie — apple in particular — as a symbol of national pride.
So preheat your oven or visit your local bakery, grab a slice, and celebrate the simple, delicious pleasures of good pie.
History of National Pie Day
One of the oldest prepared foods, pie shows up in written recipes dating back as far as the ancient Romans. The first known pie recipe was for a rye-crusted goat cheese and honey pie. The Romans made pies with a variety of meats, seafood, and fruit, and developed a dense pie called placenta, similar to cheesecake. At sumptuous Roman feasts, pie played a role in several courses.
Until recently, pie crust was mostly used as a vehicle for filling. Unlike many of today’s luscious, buttery crusts, early pie crusts often didn’t get eaten at all. The crust acted as a container to keep the meat moist and prevent it from burning.
Pies first appeared in England in the 12th century, still mostly filled with meat. The dubious origin of some pie fillings gave rise to jokes and horror stories, including the penny dreadful that would become “Sweeney Todd.”
When the Puritans and other English settlers fled for the New World, they took pie with them. But although no American Thanksgiving table is complete without sweet pumpkin and pecan pies, sweet pies didn’t make an appearance at the so-called “First Thanksgiving” and pumpkin pie didn’t become popular until the 1800s. Today, sweet pies overwhelmingly outsell savory pies, and pumpkin pie is an enduring fixture of the Thanksgiving meal.
Not to be confused with National Pi Day, National Pie Day has nothing to do with math and everything to do with that sweet American treat. Created in the 1970s by Charlie Papazian (who conveniently placed the day on his birthday), National Pie Day encourages us all to take a break with America’s favorite dessert.
National Pie Day timeline
“American Pie” Hits #1
Don McLean’s epic homage to the plane crash that killed Buddy Holly and, more broadly, to the 1960s, stays at #1 on U.S. pop charts for 4 weeks.
McDonald’s Apple Pie Is Born
A franchisee in Knoxville, Tennessee introduces the chain’s beloved fried apple pie.
First Pumpkin Pie
Pumpkin pie makes its first appearance in a cookbook.
- Neolithic period (12,000-6,500 years ago)
Bake Like an Egyptian
Evidence of flat, round flour cakes containing honey has been found in the tomb of Pharaoh Ramesses II.
National Pie Day - Survey Results
National Pie Day FAQs
Why is it National Pie Day today?
Because pie is amazing, that’s why! The day was created in the 1970s by Charlie Papazian — who just so happened to make the day fall on his birthday. Interesting.
Which day is pie day?
National Pie Day occurs every year on January 23, whereas Pi Day (celebrating the mathematical constant 3.141592653) is celebrated every year on March 14 as 3,1, and 4 are the first three digits of pi.
Why is Pi Day 2019 special?
2019’s Pi Day was extra special as Google Employee, Emma Haruka Iwao, calculated the value of pie to a whole new world record!
National Pie Day Activities
Eat some pie!
Naturally, the best way to celebrate National Pie Day is to eat a slice of your favorite — or try a new and adventurous flavor!
Learn to bake pie
Baking a pie can be as easy as, well, pie. Look up a recipe online, in a cookbook, or ask a family member to share a favorite recipe.
Enter a pie bake-off
Many organizations hold pie baking contests. If you’re feeling proud of your baking skills, try showing them off at your local bake-off.
5 Interesting Facts About Pie
American Pie remains mostly unexplained
Though we know that “the day the music died” refers to the plane crash that killed Buddy Holly and others, Don McLean has remained famously mum about the meaning of the song’s other enigmatic lyrics.
Getting pied dates back to silent film
Laurel & Hardy’s 1927 film The Battle of the Century featured a pie fight that used around 4,000 pies.
Pie might taste best at the Bradys’
In a 2008 survey, 40% of respondents agreed that Carol Brady, of all TV moms, would bake the best pie.
Sweeney Todd redefined meat pies
Johnny Depp gave a memorable performance in Tim Burton’s Sweeney Todd as the “demon barber of Fleet Street” who murders his clients so his neighbor can bake them into pies.
Walter White’s iconic pizza scene spawned copycats
After the success of the show Breaking Bad, a few fans recreated a memorable scene by throwing pizza onto the roof of the house where it was filmed. Unfortunately, the current owners didn’t appreciate the reenactment and installed a fence to keep overzealous groupies at bay.
Why We Love National Pie Day
It lets us spoil ourselves
No one’s saying you should eat pie for breakfast too often, but on this special day we can forget the guilt. If you’re feeling extra indulgent, add a scoop of ice cream to make your pie à la mode.
It’s got something for everyone
With practically infinite ingredient possibilities and baking styles, there’s sure to be a pie out there for everyone.
It reminds us of summer
Even though we celebrate it in January, National Pie Day reminds us of the sweet, lazy days of summer.