The longest night of the year is the night daylight saving time ends the first weekend in November. I dread that night.
Even though I get an extra hour of sleep.
And neither of those two statements are literally true.
The sun sets about an hour and half later on the last day of daylight saving time than it does Dec. 21 – the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, the longest night of the year. The first night of standard time is jarring when you lose that hour of sunlight at the end of the day.
And we turn our clocks back an hour when daylight saving time ends, but we begin changing the clocks early in the day to trick ourselves into thinking it is time to go to bed when we should be staying up another hour. But going to bed an hour earlier actually is a real treat. The older you get, the earlier tiredness begins.
It started out as a spring tradition so we wouldn’t lose that hour of sleep by staying up until we normally do, which would be an hour later than normal because when daylight saving time begins, you lose an hour of sleep by moving the clocks ahead an hour before you go to sleep because daylight saving time starts at 2 a.m. So we end up going to bed an hour earlier without really noticing it.
Part of the trick is not being tied to network television shows. If you watch network television, and your favorite show is on at 9 p.m. the final Saturday of standard time, it actually starts at 10 p.m. because you have to move your clocks ahead an hour before you go to bed. It gives you an idea, if just for the night, of what it must be like to live on the East Coast where the news doesn’t come on until 11 p.m. and the last network television program starts at 10 p.m.
How do they do it? Anymore, we can barely make it to 9 p.m. before we are falling asleep in front of the TV.
Netflix and DVRs changes all of that because you no longer are tied to the broadcast times of television shows, and you can go to bed when you want to because you can watch programs when you want to, not when the networks tell you to. The downside is you are not current on television programming; you’re at least a year, usually more, behind. We’re 12 years behind on “West Wing,” for instance.
But there’s no tricking the start of standard time when you lose that hour of sunlight at the end of the day. Suddenly it’s pitch black at 5 p.m., and it might as well be 10 p.m. Losing the sunlight makes you tired.
If you want that hour of sunlight back, you have to move to Galveston, Texas, where the sun sets an hour later than it does in Woodstock. Houston and Phoenix work nearly as well. Not only are the days longer, the weather is milder. I can assure you that Galveston, Houston and Phoenix did not get six inches of snow this week, and they are not looking at overnight lows in the coming days that will be 18 degrees below zero.
Oh, to have that extra hour of daylight. I’ll take the deep snow and bitter cold, but early twilight is hard to take.
The flipside of Galveston, Houston and Phoenix is summer, when the days are still longer than in Woodstock because they are closer to the equator, when the temperatures are frequently in the 100s, and there is no dressing for it and no escaping it.
I’ve never lived in any of those cities, but I follow the national weather patterns, and it’s enough to just read about to cause me to break into a sweat.
But we are two weeks out from the winter solstice, and the days are getting longer. Instead of the sun setting at about 4:15 p.m., it’s setting at about 4:30 p.m., and minutes are slowly being added to the day. Five o’clock is an important marker for darkness, and now we are moving from dark at 5 p.m. to the last wisps of twilight. It’s not pitch black.
Winter weather got an early jump on us, and it is only just beginning. We have all of January and February to look forward to. Bring it on. At least the days will be longer, and according to one sunrise-sunset calendar for McHenry County, the sun will set at 5 p.m. Jan. 27.
That calls for a celebration.
• Dick Peterson, who lives in Woodstock, is a mental-health advocate. He is a freelance writer and a former Northwest Herald Opinion Page editor. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.