Hello darkness, my old fiend

On October 25, all of Europe experienced the hour between 2am and 3am twice as Daylight Saving Time (known in Germany as summer time) comes to an end. The good news is that, theoretically, we got an extra hour of sleep, and the bad news is that darkness will come an hour earlier..

But why does this strange ritual of resetting the clocks happen at all? And, wait, didn’t the European Union decide to stop doing it? If so, why is this still happening? You’ll find the answers to those questions below.

History of Daylight Saving Time in Europe

An Englishman named William Willet is the person most often credited for the idea of Daylight Saving Time (DST). Willet noticed that in warmer months when days were longest, most people were sleeping through at least an hour of daylight in the morning that they could be enjoying.

His plan to solve that problem was to have everyone set their clocks one hour ahead during those warmer months, increasing the chances that people would be awake to enjoy some extra sunlight.

Though Willet lobbied the English government to adopt his idea, they were not the first country to do it. Germany gets credit for that, but it didn’t begin using DST to help its citizens enjoy themselves more.

Germany first used DST in 1916, the middle of World War I. Those in power believed having more daylight during normal waking hours would be helpful for conserving resources that created light and also give people doing sunlight-dependent jobs more time to work.

After Germany did this, other countries (including England) also started using DST. However, the change wasn’t permanent. Many European nations went back-and-forth between using DST and not after WWI ended.

The current practice of setting clocks forward in spring and back in the fall in what’s now the European Union began in 1980. Previously, each country had decided individually whether to use DST, but it was determined that everyone using the same time at all points in the year would make it a lot easier for economies work together. It was also believed that the move would conserve energy, but there’s no real evidence that it ever has.

Is Europe going to stop changing its clocks?

DST is far from universally liked. Many people find the time change confusing no matter how many years they’ve lived with it. Additionally, the switch in the spring when people lose an hour of sleep has been connected to increased health risks.

For reasons like these, the European Union voted to get rid of the requirement for countries to switch times twice a year. The original idea was that Europe would no longer be changing its clocks starting in 2020. But member states asked for more time, and that deadline was moved to 2021.

Interestingly, each member state in the EU can decide whether to follow DST (summer time) or standard time (winter time) all year. This technically means that neighbors like France and Germany could have day-to-day life run on two different times. We’ll just have to wait and see if such confusing situations happen next year.

Before we go, one more fun fact: in 2019 ZDF did a poll of Germans to see which time they preferred to have all year, and 52% said DST, 39% said standard, and 9% didn’t know.

Vocabulary

fiend – Narr, böser Geist

experience – erleben

be most credited for – den größten Verdienst jemandem zuschreiben

to notice – bemerken

to set the clock ahead – die Uhr vorstellen

to be awake – wach sein

increase – (an) steigern

to adopt – etwas übernehmen, annehmen

those in power – diejenigen, die an der Macht waren

to conserve resources – Ressourcen schonen

sunlight-dependent – sonnenlichtabhängig

to go back-and-forth – hin und her gehen

current practice – die derzeitige Praxis

previously – zuvor

whether to use – ob es von…Gebrauch machen soll

be determined that – man hat festgestellt, dass

the move – der Schritt

evidence – Beweis

far from universally liked – weit davon entfernt, bei allen beliebt zu sein

be confusing – verwirrend sein

additionally – zusätzlich

to get rid of – loswerden

to vote – wählen

do a poll – eine Umfrage durchführen

to prefer – vorziehen

Excite Your Senses

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