Foto: Olga Shavrina

Meet the dark period with a bright smile

One of the characteristics about the Arctic is the “dark period”. Many tourists fear it and wonder how the locals can live here without any sun for six weeks.

Written by Marie Søndergaard

It is a general assumption that people get more depressed in the wintertime due to the lack of sun and D-vitamin. Winter depression is an American phenomenon and has not yet been fully investigated. Sadly, people seem to have welcomed this phenomenon with open arms and accepted the fact that the dark period is the toughest one to get through in the Arctic. However, I am wondering if the dark period is actually as bad as people make it sound like. The dark period is not just dark – it is also a period full of colors.

The Dark period in Tromsø begins November 27 and lasts until January 15. However you will rarely experience complete darkness since the sky will be brightening briefly at midday, leaving the sky with beautiful colors. If the weather is clear the stars will be right above you, the moon will glow and the northern lights will be dancing in green, red and blue. As soon as the first snow arrives, the snow will reflect the light of the moon and the ground will look like its covered with crystals.

Photo: Olga Shavrina
Photo: Olga Shavrina

The dark period is also the time of the year where you, with great conscience, can enjoy a cup of hot chocolate in front of the fireplace, enjoy the atmosphere and just sit down and relax: Read the book you never had time to do in the summertime, watch the movie you have thought about for months. Simply, this is the time to slow down and enjoy yourself.
After talking with a couple of locals in Tromsø I realized that not many people are “fearing” the dark period. They stay active and happy throughout this period and get their D-vitamin from other sources such as fish and solarium.

Some even enjoy this period more than the summer period. When the sun is shining 24/7 many feel obligated to go for hikes or other outdoor activities, whereas the winter period is the time where you can relax.

But the dark period does not only scare tourists away – it also attracts people to come to Tromsø. Theresa Albers studies photo journalism in Denmark and for her last project she specifically picked Tromsø, focusing on the dark period. She did not want to focus on winter depression; instead she wanted to get a look into how the locals deal with the dark period and if they are affected by it.
Through this she has been interviewing a great amount of people, both locals and internationals of all different ages and with different backgrounds. She has been talking with people who are selling the light, meaning Northern light tourist guides; she has been talking to tourists who are in Tromsø to experience the light in the dark period; she has focused on the lack of D-vitamin and people’s way of handling that. She has simply tried to get a look into people’s everyday-life and has taken photos of this. The photos will end up as a magazine or photo book as her final product for the exam. Through her interviews she was surprised to see how happy people are and how well they are handling the darkness. She said that many of the people she interviewed were either very active or very good at relaxing and enjoying the period to get the best out of it. Also, people are good at eating fish and get their D-vitamin from that source instead.

So how does she handle the dark period herself while being in Tromsø?

“I really like Tromsø. It is a nice small city with lots of nature and a nice atmosphere. But it does feel a bit weird when it is already totally dark at 3pm. Maybe I am a bit more tired in the afternoon, but not too bad. I just keep on doing stuff and then it is all right”.

Photo: Olga Shavrina
Photo: Olga Shavrina

It seems like she is doing what everybody else are doing to handle the dark period; Keeping busy. Maybe the dark period is not that dark after all. Maybe it is just about how we approach the dark period.  Therefore, I suggest that we face the dark period with a smile, give each other an extra hug, eat a waffle and remember to enjoy the period and the beautiful limited light we have.

In case that you are still scared of facing the dark period here is some advice that many researchers have agreed upon.
– Have routines! Get up in the morning and remember to eat regularly throughout the day.

– Physical activities will make your body tired and help you to get a better sleep.
– Slow down – it is okay to sit with a cup of hot chocolate and enjoy life.

– Social activities.

– Get D-vitamin from alternative sources.

– Look at the bright things in this period and smile.