Exactly what is Daylight Saving Time?

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By Michele E. Buttelman, Signal Contributing Writer

It seems like we just “fell back,” and now it is almost time to “spring forward.”

Daylight saving time will arrive in the Santa Clarita Valley on March 8.

Many SCV residents look forward to its arrival —despite losing an hour as clocks are moved forward at 2 a.m. the first Sunday of March.

I always enjoy daylight saving time because my car’s clock will register the correct time again, at least until daylight saving time ends on Nov. 1.

Thanks, Ben

You can thank Ben Franklin, who first proposed the idea of daylight saving time. In 1784 Franklin presented the idea in a satirical letter to the editor of the Journal of Paris outlining how many pounds of candle was the city could save (64,050,000 pounds per Franklin’s calculations) if the city’s clocks were more aligned with the rise and setting of the sun. Was Franklin joking? The answer is unknown, but others soon took up the cause of setting clocks forward and backward according to the season.

War and daylight saving time 

During World War I, in an effort to conserve fuel, Germany adopted daylight saving time on May 1, 1916. The rest of Europe soon followed. The United States was a little late to the DST party, and didn’t adopt the practice until the Standard Time Act of March 19, 1918.

The idea was not universally loved and Congress abolished the practice after the war, overriding President Woodrow Wilson’s veto.

Daylight saving time became a local option until WWII when President Franklin Roosevelt instituted year-round DST, called “War Time,” on Feb. 9, 1942. It lasted until Sept. 30, 1945. 

From 1945 to 1966, there was no federal law on daylight saving time, so localities could choose when it began and ended, or drop it entirely.

Time chaos

As of 1954, only California and Nevada had statewide daylight saving time west of the Mississippi.

In 1964, 21 of the 48 contiguous U.S. states had no DST of any kind. The result was no standard time in use from community to community.

One 35-mile bus ride from Mounsville, West Virginia to Steubenville, Ohio, took riders through seven different time changes. At one point, even the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota were on different clocks. In 1966, the Uniform Time Act passed by Congress standardized daylight saving time from the last Sunday in April to the last Sunday in October.

However, all this falling back and springing forward is still controversial with some states rethinking the practice.

Seven states — Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Nevada, Oregon, Tennessee and Washington — have approved legislation to make daylight saving time permanent. However, the federal government will need to approve any permanent time change. 

Celebrate!

You might never have thought of turning daylight saving time into a special day. However, finding fun ways to celebrate can ease the pain of losing that precious hour of sleep.

Have a countdown party

Gather your friends and celebrate the arrival of daylight saving time just like New Year’s Eve. Buy a few inexpensive clocks to hand out at your party. Count down the time until 2 a.m. then set your clocks ahead to 3 a.m.

Of course, if you want your guests to leave at a reasonable hour, you can always set your clocks ahead at any time of your choosing, so your guests can be on their way when the time is right.

Serve cookies and cupcakes with clockface décor. Don’t forget the fun party games, such as Pin the Hands on the Clock, which is a variation of Pin the Tail on the Donkey. 

First day fun

Putting new batteries in your smoke detector, cleaning up your barbecue and outdoor entertaining space and flipping your mattress might not count as “fun” activities, but put those important chores on your list for your first day of daylight saving time.

After the chores are done reward yourself with truly fun activities like planning your spring garden, booking your summer vacation and plan a series of family-time activities in the coming months to use your extra hour of daylight. 

Enjoy an extra hour of daylight

On the first day of daylight saving time you can celebrate the occasion in a variety of silly and fun ways: 

Use that extra hour of daylight by having a barbecue party. 

Drive to the beach and take a souvenir photo of the first day of daylight saving time sunset of 2020.

Buy several inexpensive alarm clocks, set alarms to go off at a variety of times during the day and hide the clocks. Give a small prize or treat to the first person in your family to find the ringing clock.

Host a “Time Travel” themed party with guests dressed the styles of their favorite century, or decade.

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