Facts That Figure: Daylight Saving Time
By: C.G. Hoffman
No, that’s not a typo. Contrary to the way most people pronounce it, it’s Daylight SAVING Time, so let’s dive deep into the reason we’ll soon find ourselves waiting for buses on dark frigid street corners!
• Benjamin Franklin first spoke about the concept of adding an extra hour of daylight hours. However, he meant it as a joke! He was likely poking fun at the lazy French when he suggested ways of enforcing the changes: taxes on candles and shutters, and firing cannons at sunrise to wake up late snoozers!
• Although many people think Daylight Saving Time was incorporated to help farmers, the first serious suggestion actually came from a rather strange source: a bug collector! An entomologist (a scientist who studies bugs) became frustrated with how early the sun set in the summer, thus hampering his bug collecting activities. He put forward a suggestion in 1895 that an extra hour of daylight in the summer would allow for more time for bug collecting, as well as other, more conventional summer activities. His idea was laughed at, but less than twenty years later, it became a reality.
• In 1916, Germany became the first country to officially adopt Daylight Saving Time. This was when Germany was heavily embroiled in World War I, and was an attempt to save money on coal. The US followed in 1918, mostly in an attempt to save on electricity. It was considered a strictly wartime effort and was discontinued after the war.
• Daylight Saving Time was reinstated during WWII. After the war, every state decided for themselves, resulting in a mishmash of time zones, and a thoroughly messed up scheduling nightmare for buses and railways. It was officially imposed in 1974.
• Although originally proposed as an energy-saving concept, it may actually cost more than it saves. While an extra hour of daylight can save on lighting costs, it can actually cost more in heating and air conditioning. Turns out, it’s only beneficial if you’re actually willing to go outside, enjoying that extra hour in the sunshine!
• Daylight Saving Time may actually be bad for our health, especially in the spring. By springing our clocks ahead at that time and losing an hour of sleep, studies have shown that people have increased their risks of heart attacks, strokes, and depression. Heading out an hour earlier to work has also led to increased traffic accidents and workplace injuries.
• Although most of the US has adopted Daylight Saving Time, it is not federally mandated. Arizona, not exactly known for its lack of sunshine, has skipped it entirely. This leaves them with an interesting problem: The Navajo Nation, an Indian reservation located in Arizona, does observe the change. The Hopi Nation, a smaller, self-contained reservation within the Navajo Nation, does not. This leaves the Navajo Nation in a sort of Daylight Saving Time doughnut, running on a different clock than the rest of the state.
• Daylight Saving Time starts, not at midnight, but at 2 am. This is so that most people will hopefully be asleep and not notice the change. Since it is always on a Motzei Shabbos, however, there are usually plenty of Yidden who enjoyed their Shabbos afternoon nap or Melava Malka a bit too much and are awake for the change.
• In 2005, Daylight Saving Time was extended to last for eight months. This was largely due to heavy lobbying by the candy industry, who wanted the extra hour of daylight to last at least until after Halloween!
• Are you one of those people who could never remember if you move the clocks back or forward? Remember this easy hint: It’s SPRING FORWARD and FALL BACK!
• In March 2023, urged by Florida Senator Marco Rubio, the Senate approved the Sunshine Protection Act to make Daylight Saving Time permanent. However, it did not pass in Congress, perhaps in large part due to extensive lobbying by Agudath Yisrael of America, as reported by BoroPark24 here. The Agudah argued that it would impose undue hardship on Orthodox Jews. Shacharis could sometimes be as late as 9:00 in some states, interfering with work schedules. In addition, schoolchildren would have to wait for their buses in the dark during the winter, as sunrise would come much later.