Fun Facts You Probably Didn't Know About Daylight Savings Time
...Aside from losing an extra hour of sleep, of course. Who's responsible for that anyway??
Maria Bailey and Sarah Burns
Get ready to change your clocks! For most of us, Daylight Saving Time — which, in case you’re not aware, is just days away on March 14 — means we lose an extra hour of sleep in spring (why??) and later gain that hour back in the fall. But what does Daylight Saving Time really mean? We’re here to set the record straight (and maybe debunk some myths along the way) about why we, along with Canada, and most of Europe, reset our clocks twice a year.
But first, what is Daylight Saving Time?
It’s actually pretty simple. Daylight Saving Time is when we move all our clocks ahead by one hour. We basically skip an hour.
When does Daylight Saving Time occur?
In most of the United States and Canada, Daylight Saving Time begins on the second Sunday of March, occurring this year on March 14 at 2 a.m. — yes, 2 a.m. — but more on that later! This is when we set our clocks forward by an hour and effectively lose an hour of that day.
On the flip side, Daylight Saving Time ends on the first Sunday of November. This is when we set all of our clocks back an hour — so if your day feels extra long on November 7, there's a legitimate reason why! Hello, 25-hour day!
Why do we have Daylight Saving Time to begin with?
You might be wondering why we even bother to move our clocks forward for nine months of the year, just to move them back again. While it's a popular belief that Daylight Saving Time started because farmers wanted more daylight in the fields, this couldn't be further from the truth. In fact, farmers opposed this idea all throughout the 20th century. To get to the bottom of how Daylight Saving Time came to be, let’s go back in time to when one of America’s founding fathers Benjamin Franklin first brought up the idea of Daylight Savings Time, around the 1780s.
Franklin noticed people were sleeping through the early daylight hours and then complaining about the cost of candles to light their home at night. In a satirical essay (meaning, he wasn't 100% serious), Franklin joked that Parisians should change their sleep schedules and save money using sunshine instead of candles and lamp oil. While Franklin’s observations were grounded in humor, Daylight Savings Time was proposed in earnest years later by a man named George Hudson.
George Hudson lived in New Zealand, where he collected bugs — yes, bugs! As an entomologist, he really valued the daylight hours because it was easier for him to track bugs while there was light enough to see them. In 1895, Hudson proposed that we move the clocks ahead, which would provide more after-work hours of daylight to go hunting for insects. Although New Zealand rejected Hudson's proposal, that's when the idea really started to spread.
So there you have it, people: Bugs are the reason, at least in George Hudson's case, why Daylight Saving Time came about!
But that's not the only reason we have Daylight Saving Time.
Seven years later, British builder William Willet had the same lightbulb moment and proposed Daylight Saving Time to British Parliament as a way to prevent the country from wasting daylight. While the likes of Winston Churchill championed his idea, it was ultimately rejected. But a few years later, during World War I, Germany decided to adopt Willet's idea as a way of reducing electricity and therefore saving coal for the war. That was when England and all the other warring countries decided to follow suit — the United States included. On March 9, 1918, Congress enacted its first Daylight Saving law — you can actually see it here — and the rest is history!
But why does Daylight Saving Time start at 2 a.m.?
Wouldn't it make more sense for Daylight Saving Time to start after midnight rather than the seemingly random time of 2 a.m.? Well, as it turns out, this time wasn't random at all. It had everything to do with the railroads, specifically Amtrak. When the country first introduced Daylight Saving Time during World War I in 1918, they found that no trains left New York City at 2 a.m. on a Sunday and therefore concluded this time would interrupt the least amount of train travel around the country.
Is there an upside to Daylight Saving Time?
Well, whether you love or hate Daylight Saving Time, there's no denying the extra hour of daylight we gain in the spring and summertime means we have more time to go out, have fun, and explore, and we think that’s something everyone can get behind!