The sun has been reappearing during the past week in the northernmost areas of Norway, with Tromsø welcoming its return last Thursday and the Arctic outpost of Mehamn getting ready for lighter days as well. The last two months of relative darkness haven’t depressed the vast majority, though, according to a new study.
Many residents of Northern Norway actually look forward to winter and enjoy the so-called mørketiden (dark time) of the year, which lately has been re-dubbed fargetiden (colour time). “The light during the dark time of the year can be fantastic, just spectacular,” local resident Erik Eldjam, age 33, told newspaper VG.
He’s not alone in his joy over the winter, a season often thought to spur depression. Kari Leibowitz, a student researcher from Stanford University in California, spent nearly a year living in Tromsø and was astounded by local residents’ enjoyment of the winter season.
“People in Tromsø seemed to focus on the positive sides of winter and view it as an opportunity to relax, spend cozy time at home and engage in other fun activities,” Leibowitz told VG. Joar Vittersø, a researcher at the University of North Norway in Tromsø, worked with Leibowitz and could verify her results. He has documented that the farther north one comes, the more people really cherish the winter.
“She found out that many nordlendinger (Northern Norwegians) enjoy winter in one way or another, either by lighting the fireplace and enjoying a peaceful atmosphere at home, or by heading off on the ski trails,” Vittersø told VG. “Or just going for a walk under a starry winter sky. They discover a type of mental strength in the dark nights.”
The long daybreaks, low light during the middle of the day and long periods of dusk in the afternoon, before darkness really sets in, have also become an attraction for tourists from all over the world, along with Tromsø’s lively restaurant and cultural scene. On a recent weekend, it was common to hear a wide variety of languages on the streets and see people carrying large cameras to capture the dimly lit scenery.
“I especially enjoyed the Northern Lights, seeing whales in the fjords and the fantastic Arctic colours in the dark time of the years,” said Leibowitz, who grew up in New Jersey and told VG she had always “hated” winter. “I also tried skiing and love the film festival. But of course, all this was enhanced by the good friends and colleagues I got in Tromsø. I really think the spirit in this city is very special.”