Zia Hassan

What Time Is Evening

It used to make me feel awkward whenever I would leave the office at 4pm and my boss would say, “have a good evening!”

Is it evening at 4pm? I was under the impression it was still afternoon. This memory inspires the question: when exactly is the evening?

In my mind, it’s always been pretty straightforward: anytime between the time you wake up and noon is the morning, noon to 4 is the afternoon, 4-6 is the late afternoon, 6-9 is the evening, and after 9 up to when you go to bed is definitely night.

A quick Google search reveals that the answer varies, but seems to hover around 5 or 6 for the start of the evening. Some say it’s right around sunset, which makes sense in my mind.

But, I suppose, it’s more about the zeitgeist of evening. If you’re in Alaska and it’s 11pm, the sun is still out and lighting up the rivers where the fly fishers do their work. Can we really call this night, despite the time being 11pm?

Or, if you wake up to go to the bathroom at 4am in Alaska, it’s partially light outside, so much so that the residents there use blackout curtains to make sure they can sleep. I wouldn’t say it’s the night, in this case it’s the early morning.

It’s subjective, clearly. But these parts of the day that we name are a bit like the way we label our moods with words: a shoddy indicator for something that is inexplicable yet widely understood.