When it comes to daylight saving time, chances are you don't know all that much about it (besides that you have to do it, for some odd reason, and it always messes with your kid's schedule). But the somewhat strange custom, which happens when we turn our clocks ahead an hour at 2 a.m. on the second Sunday in March, is even stranger than you might expect. So what are some fascinating facts about daylight saving time?
You might already know that daylight saving time (DST) is not observed all over the world; parts of Asia and Australia don't play along, for example (nor does Iceland or the majority of Africa). In fact, not even the entire country observes DST, according to the National Sleep Foundation: Hawaii and Arizona don't participate (with the exception of the Navajo Nation); Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands opt out, too. But what about the rest of us? What's the deal with all this springing ahead and falling back? Surely there must be some explanation that makes perfect sense, right?
Truthfully, not so much. On the contrary, the history of DST is pretty bizarre, and more than a little fascinating. One thing's for sure: You probably didn't learn any of this in school!
1. Daylight Saving Time Was The Brainchild Of A Bug Collector
What does DST have to do with bugs? More than you'd expect, actually. While some credit the concept to Benjamin Franklin (who half jokingly brought up the concept in an essay as a way to conserve candle wax), official credit goes to a humble bug collector.
Back in 1895, entomologist George Vernon Hudson (who left England for New Zealand in 1881), got frustrated with how early dusk fell in the summertime because the dim light interfered with his bug collecting efforts. So, as an article in The Huffington Post explained, he proposed an idea to the Royal Society of New Zealand: Advance the clock two hours in summer and shift back in the winter (when there were no bugs to be collected). At the time, his suggestion was widely mocked, with his peers pointing out that “calling the hours different would not make any difference in the time. It was out of the question to think of altering a system that had been in use for thousands of years, and found by experience to be the best.”
Still, just a couple of decades later, Hudson's idea went into widespread use across the world (presumably giving him all the bug-collecting time he needed).
2. Germany Was The First Country To Institute Daylight Saving Time
When Germany officially adopted DST in 1916 (during WWI), their reasoning had nothing to do bugs, unsurprisingly: It was coal they were worried about — namely, the conservation of the resource, according to Mental Floss. Britain and many other war-torn European nations quickly followed suit, and in 1918, the United States jumped on the DST bandwagon in an effort to save electricity. Most countries did away with the practice after the war, but it was revived in the United States in 1974, at the height of the energy crisis (and not everybody was happy about it!).
3. Daylight Saving Time Actually Had Nothing To Do With Farmers
If you grew up believing that DST was created to give farmers more time to work in the fields, you're not alone — but you're not correct, either, as an article on History.com explained. Interestingly, the agriculture industry was completely against the idea when it was introduced in 1918 because it was more disruptive to their daily routines than anything else: Farmers work by the sun, not the clock, so they were stuck waiting an extra hour for dew to evaporate (in order to harvest hay); cows also weren't ready to be milked an hour earlier, which made shipping schedules difficult to meet. So the next time you're grumbling about losing an hour of sleep, don't blame the farmers!
4. The Candy Industry Pushed To Extend DST Beyond Halloween
Proof that big business is behind just about everything, when a law was passed in 2007 extending DST into November (it had previously ended on the last Sunday in October), it was due in part to heavy lobbying from the candy industry. As Michael Downing, author of Spring Forward: The Annual Madness of Daylight Saving Time, told NPR, for 25 years, candy-makers were determined to get trick-or-treating night covered by DST, "figuring that if children have an extra hour of daylight, they'll collect more candy. In fact, they went so far during the 1985 hearings on Daylight Saving as to put candy pumpkins on the seat of every senator, hoping to win a little favor."
Eventually, their efforts paid off!
5. Daylight Saving Time Doesn't Save Energy After All
Despite having roots in the preservation of coal and electricity, it turns out DST apparently does not conserve energy; in fact, it increases gasoline consumption (a fact not lost on the petroleum industry). As Downing also explained to NPR, "Daylight Saving really pushes Americans out of the house at the end of the day," and wherever they're going, the vast majority of people are driving, not walking. Plus, even if people don't go out, chances are they're using electricity at home when they days are longer, whether they're using their computer, watching TV, or any number of things.
6. Daylight Saving Time Starts At 2 A.M. Because People Stay Out Partying
Ever wonder why DST doesn't start at the stroke of midnight? It's partly because people tend to stay out late on Saturday nights, as an article on LiveScience explained, and waiting to move the clocks ahead until 2 a.m. gives most people a chance to get home without bars and restaurants being affected. (It's also early enough so that shift workers and churches aren't affected, either.)
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