National Fortune Cookie Day Date in the current year: July 20, 2024

National Fortune Cookie Day National Fortune Cookie Day is unofficially celebrated every July 20. It is the perfect day to order some Chinese takeout with a delicious crunchy fortune cookie for dessert — and to learn that these supposedly Chinese cookies aren’t Chinese at all!

Fortune cookies are crisp and sugary cookie wafers that have a piece of paper with a vague prophecy, lucky numbers, or an aphorism inside. They are typically made from flour, sugar and sesame seed oil, and flavored with vanilla. Despite being ubiquitous in Chinese restaurants in Western countries, fortune cookies did not originate in China; they are believed to have been introduced to the United States by Japanese immigrants.

In some Japanese temples, there is a tradition of serving tsujiura senbei, rice crackers with random fortunes written on strips of paper (omikuji). Although senbei are very different from fortune cookies (they are larger, are made of a different kind of dough, and the slip of paper is tucked into the bend of the cookie rather than baked into it), some sources claim that it was tsujiura senbei that served as the inspiration for present-day fortune cookies.

The person most frequently credited with the invention of fortune cookies is Makoto Hagiwara, Japanese-born American landscape designer. He was the caretaker of the Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco in the late 1890s and early 1900s, where he served cookies adapted from tsujiura senbei. Although this version of the origin of fortune cookies has been contested, most food historians agree that they were invented by a Japanese immigrant because these cookies were known as fortune tea cakes, a name similar to Japanese tea cakes, up to the mid-20th century.

Fortune cookies became associated with American Chinese cuisine sometime around the Second World War. This probably happened because about 120,000 Japanese Americans were trapped in internment camps during the war, and Chinese immigrants took over the production of fortune cookies. Thanks to the invention of the fortune cookie machine by Shuck Yee, fortune cookies became cheap, widely available and very popular.

Having originated in the United States, fortune cookies has since become a common dessert in Chinese restaurants in many countries, including Brazil, Canada, France, India, Italy, Mexico, Peru, and the United Kingdom. According to statistics, about 3 billion fortune cookies are produced every year across the globe; most of them are manufactured and consumed in the United States. The largest fortune cookie manufacturer is Wonton Food; the company produces over 4.5 million cookies every day!

Since their invention, fortune cookies have become a part of American culture, so it is not surprising there is a holiday dedicated to them, albeit an unofficial one. Celebrate National Fortune Cookie Day on July 20 by ordering some Chinese takeout and indulging in fortune cookies or by making fortune cookies yourself. Don’t forget to share cookies with your friends and spread the word about the holiday on social media with the hashtag #FortuneCookieDay.

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Unofficial Holidays



National Fortune Cookie Day, food days, unofficial holidays, observances in the US, American Chinese cuisine