A straw Christmas goat guards the presents under the tree. The tradition is very old and is thought to date back to Viking times during the harvest when the last grain was thought to be magical, or it’s something to do with Thor. Who knows?
Through the years, it has evolved from a prankster, to a scary creature demanding gifts, to bringing the Christmas gifts, to making sure the presents and decorations are correctly done, or for good luck. There are even more old traditions than those.
In the Swedish city of Gävle, the biggest straw goat is erected in the town square every year since 1966, with the idea of bringing in tourists. Well, the tourists certainly come now, but not to see the goat standing. It’s because the goat is famous for being illegally set on fire almost every year. They have tried fire-proofing it, hiring guards, setting up cameras, etc., but it rarely survives until Christmas. This year, it only survived one day before being set on fire.
Some of the interesting destructions include:
1976 – Goat run over by a car
1988 – During a severe blizzard, volunteers guarding the goat retreat into a nearby café for a break and some coffee, assuming that no one could possibly start a fire in the raging storm. They were wrong, and the goat burned.
2001 – Swedes tricked an American tourist into burning it down by telling him it was an annual tradition.
2005 – Burnt by unknown vandals reportedly dressed as Santa and the gingerbread man, by shooting a flaming arrow at the goat.
2010 – (failed attempt) – Two men tried to bribe a guard to leave his post in an attempt to kidnap the goat by helicopter and fly it to Stockholm.