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.

Watch: It's snow joke! Cologne and Freiburg scored seven in a snowstorm in 2017/18

Almost a month in 2018/19

Last season, Bundesliga players had to be content with a shorter than usual winter break, due to the staging of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia. There were just 22 days between Bayern Munich's 2-1 DFB Cup victory over Klassiker rivals Borussia Dortmund and their 3-1 dismissal of Bayer Leverkusen on Matchday 18.

In 2018/19 there are no such scheduling issues to contend with. The players will down tools just before Christmas, on the weekend of the 21-23 December, and will not return to Bundesliga action until the start of the Rückrunde on 18-20 January.

Benjamin Pavard (r.) played every minute in the Bundesliga in 2017/18, but that didn't stop him and Bayern's Corentin Tolisso (l.) lifting the FIFA World Cup with France. © imago / Sven Simon

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.

Last year, while Bayern travelled to Qatar, nine other clubs made the shorter trip to Spain, though topping up energy levels, not tans, is always 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. "And the climatic conditions in Tenerife are simply the best."

Working from home

Not everybody agrees. In January 2018, Hoffenheim, Leverkusen, Borussia Mönchengladbach and RB Leipzig decided to stay closer to home, preferring to spend precious hours on their own training pitches rather than dealing with autograph and selfie hunters in airport waiting lounges.

Hoffenheim coach Julian Nagelsmann was among those who preferred to stay in Germany during the 2017/18 winter break. © imago / Dennis Grombkowski

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 (literally, "the truce"). 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 23 December to 11 January this season while in Spain, La Liga stops at the same time but returns even earlier, on the weekend of the 5-6 January. Italy will plough on with its Serie A fixtures either side of Christmas and New Year's Day, although the players will get a short breather from the start of the year until the round of Coppa Italia fixtures on 13 January.

Jadon Sancho (c.) must be glad he picked Borussia Dortmund over Manchester City when Christmas rolls around... © imago / Kalvenbach

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.

For many years, the English Premier League has been the major exception to the rule, cramming a large handful of games into the festive period like Santa Claus stuffing a stocking. But it was recently announced that it too will incorporate a two-week winter break in February from the 2019/20 season.

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