Why Do The Clocks Go Back? Daylight Saving Time Explained For Kids | Kidadl


Why Do The Clocks Go Back? Daylight Saving Time Explained For Kids

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For people who love to sleep in, summer is definitely not a time to pursue that, especially if you practice daylight saving time.

Let's talk about the famous British Summer Time, also known as daylight saving time. It is the practice of changing the clocks twice a year in March and October or November.

The clocks go forward one hour earlier in the summer. Do you want to know why? It's a practice to prevent daylight from being wasted. In the same way, the clocks go backwards during winter. Sounds rather funny, but many countries like the US and the UK still practice daylight saving time. Daylight saving time (DST) is a period in summer during which the clocks go forward by one hour. When winter arrives, the clocks spring forward in time again. In the UK, the clocks go ahead an hour at 1 am on the last Sunday in March and then fall back an hour at 2 am on the last Sunday in October. Sunday being a holiday makes it easier for people to get prepared for the change in time. During spring, in which the clocks are an hour ahead, the time zone is referred to as British Summer Time (BST), and during the fall season, Britain goes back to the Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). 

During summer, people in these countries have to wake up an hour earlier to start the day. This practice is still relevant across most countries in Europe and North America. Households change the clock's time twice a year according to the seasons. However, in the US, not all states follow the same practice as regions of Hawaii, Arizona, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, and the U.S. Virgin Islands do not follow this practice. The clocks go back in winter to let the people start and finish work an hour early. Why does such a tradition exist? Who came up with the idea of changing the clocks twice a year? Are there any benefits to this practice?

Find out more about clocks and days by reading when do the days start getting longer and when do the days start getting shorter.

Where does changing the clocks originate from?

While discussing daylight saving time (DST), the first question is: who started it and why? There is a long history behind the origin of DST. The idea is said to have come from the letter Benjamin Franklin wrote in 1784. In this letter, he joked about people in Paris waking up an hour early from their slumber. Who knew that the joke would turn into a reality in the future? However, it did in 1895, not in Paris, but in New Zealand. This idea turned into modern daylight saving time.

In 1895, a scientist called George Vernon Hudson from New Zealand asked the government to move the clocks forward by two hours in the summer. His reason was that he wanted to have sunlight to go bug hunting after coming home from work. The scientist's proposal was rejected. After seven years, William Willet, a British builder, came up with the same concept but with a different argument. He said that by not moving the clock forward by two hours, we were wasting the daylight and the aim is to get an extra hour. Although some famous personalities agreed with this view, the government still rejected implementing this idea. What caused the implementation of the idea was the First World War. In 1916, after two years of the First World War, the German government decided to move the clocks forward as a means to save energy. Slowly, many other European countries, including the UK, started to practice daylight saving time. Even the US started to implement daylight saving time. Benjamin Franklin definitely came up with an intelligent idea. People in many countries observe DST even now. This practice is done year-round.

When do the clocks go back and forward?

How does it work? When do we decide to change the clocks forward and backward? It is said to be based on the season. If so, how long does each change last? Since the practice is said to prevent daylight from being wasted, the winter and summer will have different times. The daylight available in these two seasons is vastly different. These fall and spring clock-changing traditions seem to follow certain rules to change the time. It began on a Sunday in March.

Traditionally, daylight saving time begins in the summer months and ends right before winter. As the dates change for the occurrence of the season, it is hard to determine the exact date of the clock changing. When the clocks are an hour ahead in summer, there is more daylight in the evenings with darker mornings. When the clocks go back in winter, there is more daylight in the morning with darker evenings. People will move the clock forward an hour at 2 am so that it will read 3 am as standard time. When the clocks fall back, the same happens in reverse, so 2 am will be read as 1 am after the change. Many countries in Europe, North America including Mexico and Canada, still use daylight saving time. However, this practice is not followed in countries near the equator where there are only slight variations in sunset and sunrise time. Countries in Asia and Africa do not follow this time-changing method. Even though the practice has been there for several years, people now find this method unnecessary. Initially, this practice aimed at lowering energy consumption which served the purpose in the beginning. However, in the modern-day, it doesn't save any energy since the lifestyle of people has changed drastically.

Historically, there were no certain rules to change DST. The US implemented a Time Act to cope with the confusion that arose due to DST. The Uniform Time Act intended to ease the way of where and when the DST is applied in the US.  

Man adjusting or changing the time on white clock

Why do we change the clock to 2 am rather than midnight?

It's understandable when people are expected to start daylight saving time in summer and end in winter, but what is the reason for choosing 2 am for this? Is it the only time to change the clock? Most people are sound asleep during this time. Wouldn't it be better to change the time to midnight? To understand this, we need to go back to the beginning.

The reason for 2 am is railroads. To be more precise, Amtrak railroads. During the First World War, when the whole concept of daylight saving time was introduced, no trains left the stations at 2 am. There were no interruptions during this time. So, it seemed like an ideal time to implement the time change. Changing the clock at 2 am would not be disruptive. This practice continued to the modern times, even though nowadays, there are trains at 2 am. No one wanted to change the time since it will be harder to find another convenient time. Also, 2 am seems like a better option than midnight. Changing the clock at midnight would mean that we will have a slight change in the whole idea of the day also. As this will lead to more confusion, 2 am fits well for the change.

Is the UK going to stop changing the clocks?

The British introduced British Summer Time as means to help people make use of daylight more. Even though the beginning of this method was for different reasons, British Summer Time continued to be practiced for this reason. Most places abandoned daylight saving time after the war ended except for a few countries, including the UK. Despite the good intention, people don't seem to be favorable with the idea of clock changing. No one seems to find the extra hour appealing. It is found that many people disagree with the notion simply because they don't find it very beneficial.

With the UK leaving the European Union, the plans to change daylight saving time became uncertain. In 2019, the European parliament voted to scrape out daylight saving time altogether. However, there were no actions made in order to move forward with this decision. With the UK out of the European Union, there have been many changes in the British policies. Since the public is not too fond of the clock-changing practice, European countries will soon stop the daylight saving time. Whether the UK government will decide to continue with the clock-changing practice, only time will tell. Whatever they decide, they can implement it without a hassle since the UK is officially not part of the European Union.

Will this practice continue for a long time? Chances are slightly against this. As many countries are abolishing daylight saving time, the idea that we have to change the clocks might soon turn out to be a thing of the past. The future generations will learn that their ancestors used to change the clocks twice a year to save sunlight in the past.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for why do the clocks go back, then why not look at why do we have day and night, or how many days are there in a year.

Written By
Supriya Jain

<p>As a skilled member of the Kidadl team, Shruti brings extensive experience and expertise in professional content writing. With a Bachelor's degree in Commerce from Punjab University and an MBA in Business Administration from IMT Nagpur, Shruti has worked in diverse roles such as sales intern, content writer, executive trainee, and business development consultant. Her exceptional writing skills cover a wide range of areas, including SOP, SEO, B2B/B2C, and academic content.</p>

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