Sunset’s too late on Halloween

I didn’t get my first trick-or-treater today until 6:53.  This was late enough that I was starting to wonder if any would come, despite this being our second year in this house and having gotten plenty last year.

But I live in Atlanta, where sunset today came at 6:45 because:

  • despite being as far west as it is, Atlanta is on Eastern time;
  • the powers that be made the decision that, starting in 2007, daylight savings time would end on the first Sunday in November instead of the last Sunday in October, so that it would be light out later on Halloween.

I think the powers that be are enemies of fun.  I told my mother this and she said that she remembered not being allowed to go out to trick or treat until it got dark.

But is this 6:45 sunset late?  It seemed like it, so I tracked down a list of cities and the maptools R package (which, among other things, can compute sunrise and sunset times) and got to work.  Here’s the result:


Lighter shades mean later sunset.  You’ll notice that one of the lightest shades is, indeed, the one for Atlanta.  There are 239 cities represented here; of these, only 17 have sunset times later than Atlanta tonight.   Full data is in Sunset times on Halloween for major cities.

The latest sunset time in a major US city tonight is 6:58 PM in Reno, Nevada.  The earliest is 5:32 PM in Spokane, Washington, which is that barely visible dark blue dot out in eastern Washington by the Idaho border.

I grew up in Philadelphia, where the sun sets at 5:58 tonight, and would have set at around 4:58 on the Halloweens of my youth. (I spent significant time in Boston and San Francisco, where the sun sets on Halloween at 5:38 and 6:11 respectively.)  So we’re off by almost two hours from what I “expect” from my formative years.  It also got up to 86 degrees today.  No wonder everything feels wrong.

2 thoughts on “Sunset’s too late on Halloween

  1. FWIW the lobbying group for US candy manufacturers was long part of the push to extend DST, with the reasoning being that later sunsets would increase the length of time available to younger trick-or-treaters (who parents would supposedly prefer to be home before it gets too dark), and thus push up candy demand.

    As for why that doesn’t seem to have happened, back when I was a little kid, kids went trick-or-treating alone, or in kid-only groups (cf the Charlie Brown special). From what I’d see at my parents’ house more recently, elementary-school-age kids are now always accompanied by parents hovering in the background, so the safety argument goes out the window.

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