What IS the winter break? Or the Winterpause as the Germans call it? It is pretty much exactly what it says: a kind of an extended coffee break for footballers between matches, a short sabbatical to recharge the batteries before getting back to the daily grind of winning games. Basically, the football stops because it gets really cold.

With average January temperatures below freezing across Germany, it makes sense to take a breather when snowballs are easier to kick than footballs, and to stage games might require ice skates rather than studs, not just for the players — undersoil heating in Germany's stadia usually helps them out with that — but for fans hoping to see their heroes in action.

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Shorter this year

This year, though, there is barely time to let the dust settle on Matchday 17 and the DFB Cup Last 16 before the Bundesliga's best are back at the goalface. There are just 22 days between Bayern Munich's and Borussia Dortmund's Cup Klassiker on 20 December - which the Bavarians won 2-1 - and the start of the Rückrunde when the reigning German champions take on Bayer Leverkusen on 12 January.

That may be great news for fans, starved of their football fix that no amount of turkey, presents and re-runs of classic movies can replace. But it means a very, very short downing of the tools for the footballers, who will barely have time to see in the new year before they begin training again. The reason?

Germany's World Cup defence means Bayern Munich's Thomas Müller has less time off. © gettyimages / Odd Andersen

"Because of the World Cup, the Bundesliga starts again so soon that what was called 'preparation time' in previous years is not available to us before this Rückrunde," explained Bayern boss Jupp Heynckes.

Last year, the winter break lasted nearly a month from 21 December to 20 January, and the 2015/16 campaign, which ended with UEFA EURO 2016, broke off for even longer still, stretching from five days before Christmas until 22 days into the new year.

But the scale of the World Cup — 32 teams, rather than the EUROs 24 — means it requires even longer to play, and in order to give the players involved some downtime between the end of the tournament and next season, the Winterpause has to be shortened.

So, what will teams do?

Usually, Winterpause rhymes with 'sun, sand and sweat' in post-Christmas training camps dotted around southern Europe, beginning in early January. But the mini-break the Bundesliga clubs have means the usual plans have been tweaked.

While Bayern will travel to Qatar, nine of their counterparts will make the shorter trip to Spain, though topping up energy levels, not tans, is the priority.

"We see it as a big advantage if the team is together for a few days to focus ourselves on the Rückrunde," explained Augsburg Team Manager Stefan Reuter, whose players will actually start training again before 1 January, just like their Hannover counterparts. "And the climatic conditions in Tenerife are simply the best."

Working from home

Hoffenheim, Leverkusen, Borussia Mönchengladbach and RB Leipzig, among others, have decided that with time against them, spending precious hours on their own training pitches rather than dealing with autograph- and selfie-hunters in airport waiting lounges will be more beneficial.

Leipzig boss Ralph Hasenhüttl is happy to spend the winter break at home. © gettyimages / Robert Michael

"It's simply that I lose two days' training, which hurts me, when I'm sitting in a plane," said Leipzig boss Ralph Hasenhüttl, whose club's state-of-the-art training facilities mean "nothing is lacking, whatever the weather."

And in other countries?

The Bundesliga stars are not alone in getting the chance to put their talented feet up.

Regions of France can be caught in winter's icy grip, so they also have a break, known as la trêve. It is always shorter than in Germany as Ligue 1 has 20 teams rather than the Bundesliga's 18, meaning there are four more league matches to play a season.

France will take a break from 20 December to 6 January this season while in Spain, La Liga stops on the evening of 23 December with Spanish top flight sides back in action in the Copa del Rey from 3 January. Italy — who had a short winter break last season — will plough on with its Serie A fixtures either side of Christmas and New Year's Day, then taking a break from January 6 to 21.

If Mönchengladbach's Reece Oxford had still been at West Ham, he would have been very busy right now. © imago / Nigel Cooke Imago / Action Plus

The Russian Premier League teams enjoy nearly three months off between mid-December and early March, while Sweden avoids the problem all together by planning their football between April and November.

The English Premier League is the major exception to the rule. When the other major European leagues are winding down, they cram a large handful of games into the festive period like Santa Claus stuffing a stocking.

"There is a willingness to try and make it happen but I can't put anything like a time scale on it," Premier League Executive Chairman Richard Scudamore said when asked about introducing a winter break last year. "I think if it was easy it would have been done."

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