Brain Pickings

How the Candy Industry Manipulated Daylight Saving Time

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Trick-or-treating to circadian hell.

“Lives are shaped by chance encounters and by discovering things that we don’t know that we don’t know,” a wise woman wrote; more than that, the discovery itself is one of life’s great rewards and pleasures. Since 2010, Dan Lewis, director of new media communications at Sesame Workshop, has been hunting down and illuminating those infinitely fascinating unknown-unknowns and sharing them with the world via his delightful email newsletter. Now, he has gathered the stories behind 100 of these curiosity-quenchers in Now I Know: The Revealing Stories Behind the World’s Most Interesting Facts (public library) — a mind-tickling encyclopedia that does for little-known, unusual facts what The Secret Museum did for little-known, unusual artifacts.

For instance, did you know that Daylight Saving Time, that circadian atrocity inflicted upon us by an outdated and nonsensical convention, works the way it does thanks to the overlords of the candy industry? Lewis explains:

Before 1966, Daylight Saving Time in the United States was set via a patchwork of state and local laws, often causing conflict and confusion. The Uniform Time Act, passed by Congress in 1966, standardized Daylight Saving Time across the nation. As set forth by the act, Daylight Saving Time begins on the last Sunday in April and ends on the last Sunday in October. But the act has been amended twice since. First, in 1986, the beginning of Daylight Saving Time was shifted to the first Sunday in April, taking effect the next year. Later, in 2005, both the start and end dates were changed (effective 2007). Daylight Saving Time was to begin a few weeks earlier, at the second Sunday in March, and end a week later than previously, on the first Sunday in November.

Although the second part of the second change seems curious — it pushes Daylight Saving Time’s end date back merely a week — one of the forces behind the change is unexpected: candy pumpkins.

[…]

For [the candy industry], a one-week move — from the last Sunday in October to the first in November — meant big bucks, as it allowed for an extra hour of trick-or-treating each Halloween.

In 1985, the candy industry made its first attempt to get its desired change enacted with a little bit of bribery — a very little bit. Before the relevant hearing, lobbyists took to the Senate chambers with a bag of candy pumpkins in hand, placing some of the treat on each senator’s chair. But Congress returned a trick, keeping the clock rollback date to a time before Halloween. Not until twenty years later, under the 2005 bill, did the candy industry get its desired outcome.

Now I Know is a treat in its entirety, a rare antidote to this age of the filter bubble where we find more and more of what we’re already interested in, which offers instead an oasis of learning about what you don’t yet know you’re looking but are glad you found.

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