Dessert lovers, join! Thanksgiving isn’t the only holiday celebrated with a slice of pie.
Designated a national holiday by Congress in 2009 and International Day of Mathematics by the United Nations Scientific, Educational and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 2014, Pi Day is celebrated on March 14 because the numerical date 3/14 matches the first three digits of pi , which are 3.14.
Not only is “pie” the name of many people’s favorite all-American dessert, the mathematical value “pi” — often symbolized using the Greek letter 𝝿 — is the ratio of a circle’s circumference, (the measure around the circle) to its diameter , (the straight line across that intersects the circle.) No matter the circle’s size, this ratio will always be equal to pi.
What exactly is pi’s value? Well, mathematicians aren’t entirely sure. It’s an irrational number, meaning it never ends and never repeats. Pi has been calculated out to the trillionth decimal place with no end in sight, but it is generally accepted to be somewhere near 3.14.
The history behind Pi Day
Physicist Larry Shaw at the Exploratorium in San Francisco, a public learning lab and museum dedicated to the sciences, is credited with organizing the first Pi Day celebration in 1988.
According to the Exploratorium, at the first Pi Day, Shaw, who would eventually be dubbed the “Prince of Pi,” and his wife set out fruit pies and tea, led a parade around the museum and even created a “Pi Shrine.” They finished off the festivities by circling the shrine exactly 3.14 times.
Fast forward 34 years and Pi Day is celebrated around the world in as many ways as there are decimal places in pi: pie eating and throwing contests; discussions about the significance of pi; even numerical recitations of its decimal places. Lu Chao of China holds the Guinness World Record for reciting the most digits of pi — 67,890 digits in total, which took him 24 hours and 4 seconds to recite, he later said in an interview.
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Although the first Pi Day celebration was only in 1988, pi as a value isn’t new — the ancient Egyptians and Babylonians are credited with first approximating pi’s value nearly 4,000 years ago.
The ancient Egyptians are also one of the civilizations credited with inventing the pastry we know now as pie, so says the American Pie Council.
Pi Day is also Albert Einstein’s birthday, which, depending on your opinion on chaos theory, is just a coincidence — or is it?
Wherever you stand on the unpredictably of the cosmos, what you can be sure of is the Cape and Islands’ wide array of bakeries, restaurants and coffee shops serving up delicious homemade pies for your Pi Day celebration. It’s a true win-win: mathematical celebration for the left-brained, and pie for the rest of us.
10 Water St., Woods Hole
In-store hours: Monday-Sunday 7 am to 3 pm
Pickup hours: 6 am to 4 pm daily
A Woods Hole and Cape-wide favorite, Pie in The Sky has been serving homemade pastries, soups, sandwiches, quiches and fresh coffee and espresso drinks, “Baked in The Hole” since 1982. With plenty of outdoor seating and a cozy indoor atmosphere right on main street Woods Hole, Pie in The Sky is a community staple. And as their namesake says, pie is always on the menu.
1671 Falmouth Road
Tuesday-Saturday 8 am – 5 pm
Centerville Pie Company has Oprah’s seal of approval, but more importantly, it has Centerville’s. From savory to fruit to cream to vegetarian, Centerville Pie has something for everyone. Although you can’t go wrong with its famous chicken pot pie featured three times over in Oprah’s yearly “favorite things” list in O Magazine, Centerville Pie’s full menu runs the gamut of what you can do with pie: Savory pies including beef and ale , buffalo chicken or clam pie; sweet pies like peach, apple or cherry pie; cream and custard pies including key lime, banana cream and not to forget pecan pie are just a few of the many flavors you can pick up hot and ready to eat or frozen to cook at home at the Centerville shop. Grab a take-and-bake pie from Centerville Pie for this year’s Pi Day celebration, as the shop is closed on Monday, March 14.
5 Old Colony Way
6 am to 8 pm daily
As anyone who’s visited Orleans will tell you, the Hot Chocolate Sparrow is a must-visit — and not just for the hot chocolate. It has a wide-ranging menu with everything from espresso drinks to smoothies to lunch fare, but this Pi Day, don’t miss out on its delicious pie selection. Apple crumb, blueberry, key lime, and even gluten-free options, a slice of pie and a hot chocolate from the Sparrow is the perfect way to spend your Pi Day. The whoopie pies, although a controversial take on the definition of “pie,” are a New England fan-favorite, with many online reviews noting to leave without trying one. Not a pie fan? Not a problem! Hot Chocolate Sparrow has you covered with its assortment of other cakes and pastries.
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2022 Main St.
Tuesday-Sunday 8 am – 5 pm
Marion’s Pie Shop started in 1947 with Marion herself, who sold her homemade chicken pot pies right out of her kitchen in Chatham. Fast-forward 75 years, and Marion’s Pie Shop is a Chatham stand-by, even being featured on Chronicle, TV Diner and the Phantom Gourmet. While the menu has expanded over the years to include breakfast fare, pastries and homemade breads and comfort food, Marion’s still has a pie for everyone. From sweet staples like apple, key lime and strawberry rhubarb to the more imaginative Bumbleberry, Razzleberry and Baileyberry; plus savory standbys including chicken pot pie and beefsteak to a Cape-classic clam pie, Marion’s is a must-visit this Pi Day. Make sure to pick up your pie ahead of time, though — Marion’s is closed on Monday, March 14.
200 Teaticket Highway
Monday-Friday 10am – 6pm; Saturday 10 a.m. – 7 p.m.; Sunday 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.
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Pies A La Mode Cafe in Teaticket meets all of your sweet or savory pie needs, as well as offering an assortment of pastries and quiches. With a monthly rotating sweet pie flavor, Pies A La Mode also offers a variety of favorite fruit flavors such as apple and blueberry as well as a myriad of savory “dinner pies,” ranging from chicken pot to shepherd’s to even a lobster pie, for the Cape’s many seafood fanatics.
46 South St, South Yarmouth
Tuesday-Sunday 7 am – 4:30 pm
Great Island Bakery re-opened for the season March 11, just in time to grab a couple of treats for Pi Day.
Alongside a rotating fruit pie flavor selection, “take-and-bake” savory pies and the bakery’s renowned key lime pie, Great Island Bakery in South Yarmouth also serves up homemade muffins, Danish pastries, sticky buns and quiches. A Yarmouth favorite for more than 19 years, all of the goodies on Great Island Bakery’s menu can be picked up hot and ready to enjoy, or frozen to cook at home. Be sure to take advantage of their wide array of take-and-bake pies, as Great Island Bakery is closed on Monday, March 14.
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977 State Road
Monday-Saturday 6am – 6:30pm; Sunday 7 a.m. – 3 p.m.
If you’re looking for an outside-of-the-box pie on Pi Day, try the Scottish Bakehouse in Vineyard Haven. Serving traditional Scottish shortbread pies, as well as homemade pizza, bread, cakes, pastries and bagels since 1961, the Scottish Bakehouse puts an untraditional spin on Pi Day with its traditional Scottish baking. Scottish shortbread pies, rather than the thin crust with a filling recipe that American pies follow, are made of thick, soft and buttery dough, similar to shortbread cookies, which are then baked and sliced in a pie shape. Scottish Bakehouse is also looking out for the gluten-intolerant with an array of gluten-free pastry options, as well as a daily vegan and paleo selection.