When the holidays are finally, actually over, when the winter darkness falls heavily and the snow and cold settle in, there’s a really, really long wait until the next major holiday.

Enter the so-called oxveckorna (ox weeks): According to the Institute for Language and Folklore of the old Swedish peasant society, this was the time after the Christmas holidays — different accounts indicate various weeks-long periods — when everyone had to wait and work hard until Easter, toiling like an ox. Others indicate it's the time between Epiphany and Lent that is sluggish and heavy, like an ox.


No matter which holidays are implicated and how many weeks there are between them in any given year, the time is sluggish and heavy, and people are toiling like oxen. Hence the name oxveckor.

Understandably, it has become the most popular time of the year for those lucky Swedes who can manage it to take a vacation to warmer, sunnier climes. And for many others, its oxveckorna’s end that marks the opportunity for the traditional winter holiday called “sportlov” (similar to Americans’ spring break) when schools close for a week and families travel if they can.

If a getaway isn’t possible and one must stay in Sweden during the dark oxveckorna, psychologists have a few suggestions to stay healthy:
* Do not bury yourself in negative thoughts even if you are sad.
* Structure daily life and take time to relax, especially on the weekend.
* Go outside in the middle of the day and catch what little light there is.
* Take a nap, listen to music or just relax.
* Enjoy the art of doing nothing to benefit your well-being.