Lighter evenings, darker mornings, but why do we put the clocks forward?

The clocks have gone forward and from now until the early hours of the last Sunday of October Belgium and most other Western European countries will be using Central European Summer Time (GMT +2). This means that it will remain light until later in the evening and we will have to wait longer for it to get light in the mornings. While some of us that have engagements on Sunday morning may have slept for an hour less than usual, many of us will simply have got up an hour later than we usually do on a Sunday. 

The switch from Summer Time to Winter time happens at 2am. 2am becomes 3am which means that the last Sunday of March is the shortest day of the year (23 hours), while the last Sunday in October is the only day of the year that is 25 hours long.

For some years now the European Commission has been considering schapping summer and winter time. It left it up to individual member states to decide whether they prefer summertime or wintertime. No consensus was reached and due to more pressing issues having come to the fore (coronavirus, energy crisis, war in Ukraine) the issue of summer/wintertime has been put onto the back burner. 

Why make the change?

Many people believe that Belgium has always been in the same time zone as much of the rest of Continental Europe and that the discussion concerning time started when Summer Time or Daylight Saving Time as it is also known was introduced in the 1970s. Belgium was among a number of European countries to introduce Daylight Saving Time in an effort to cut energy consumption.

However, the Daylight Saving had been introduced previously. During the First World War the Germans that occupied most of Belgium brought in Summer Time in 1916. 

Change of time zone

Prior to the German invasion in 1914, Belgium had been in the same time zone as the UK. However, the Germans put the clocks forward by one hour so (most of) Belgium was on the same time as Berlin. The introduction of Summer Time in 1916 meant that most of the country was 2 hours ahead of the small area of Flanders that was still controlled by the Allies.

After the end of the WWI Belgium returned to “British Time” (GMT). When the Germans invaded again in 1940 the Nazi occupiers forced Belgium to change again to Central European Time so that there time here was the same as in Germany. However, unlike at the end of World War I, Belgium didn’t return to GMT after World War II. Summer Time was scrapped in 1946 only making a return in the 1970’s. 

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