My latest podcast episode about living in Sweden is up – A discussion of weddings in Sweden, strange toppings on Swedish pizza and why setting a 43-foot tall straw goat on fire has become a yearly tradition.
Hope you enjoy it! http://iceandsnow.se
or Spotify- https://tinyurl.com/yc87ncn6
or iTunes – https://tinyurl.com/y6tvl63r
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.
The goat burned Friday night. My favourite part of this story:
“”I have a hard time believing that it may have started because of natural causes.”
Every year, the Swedish town of Gävle builds a giant straw goat during December to celebrate Christmas (yes, they use goats here to celebrate Christmas.)
This started in 1967 and almost every year, the goat has somehow burnt down. People now gamble on when the goat will burn. Here is an article about the goat. http://www.thelocal.se/20131130/gvle-confident-its-2013-christmas-goat-wont-burn
Here are a few highlights in the history of the goat:
1966 The goat stood until midnight of New Year’s Eve, when it went up in flames. 1
1969 The goat was burnt down on New Year’s Eve.
1970 The goat was burnt down only six hours after it was assembled.
1976 Hit by a car.
1978 Again, the goat was kicked to pieces.
1979 The goat was burnt even before it was erected.
1980 Burnt down on Christmas Eve.
1982 Burnt down on Lucia (13 December).
1984 Burnt down on 12 December, the night before Lucia.
1985 The 41 ft tall goat was featured in the Guinness Book of Records for the first time. Even though the goat was enclosed by a 6.6 ft high metal fence, guarded by soldiers, it was burnt down in January.
1987 A heavily fireproofed goat was built. It got burnt down a week before Christmas.
1989 Again, the goat burnt down before it was assembled.
1991 On the morning of Christmas Eve the goat was burnt down.
1992 The goat was burnt down eight days after it was built.
1995 A Norwegian was arrested for attempting to burn down the goat. Burnt down on the morning of Christmas Day.
1998 Burnt down on 11 December, even though there was a major blizzard.
1999 Burnt down only a couple of hours after it was erected.
2000 Burnt down a couple of days before New Year’s Eve.
2001 Goat set on fire on 23 December by Lawrence Jones, a 51-year-old visitor from Cleveland, Ohio, who spent 18 days in jail and was subsequently convicted and ordered to pay 100,000 Swedish kronor in damages. Jones stated in court that he was no “goat burner”, and believed that he was taking part in a completely legal goat-burning tradition.
2003 Burnt down on 12 December.
2004 Burnt 21 December, only three days before Christmas Eve.
2005 Burnt by unknown vandals reportedly dressed as Santa and the gingerbread man, by shooting a flaming arrow at the goat at 21:00 on 3 December.
2006 On the night of 15 December at 03:00, someone tried to set fire to the goat by dousing the right front leg in petrol (gasoline). The red ribbon on that leg was slightly burned and fell off.
On the night of 25 December, a drunken man managed to climb up on the goat.
2009 On the night of 23 December before 04:00 the goat was set on fire and was burned to the frame, even though it had a thick layer of snow on its back. The goat had two online webcams which were put out of service by a DoS attack, instigated by computer hackers just before the burning.
2010 On 17 December, a Swedish news site reported that one of the guards tasked with protecting the goat had been offered payment to leave his post so that the goat could be stolen via helicopter and transported to Stockholm.
2011 The goat was burnt down in the early morning of 2 December.
2012 The inauguration of the goat took place on 2 December. It was burnt just ten days later in the hours before midnight of 12 December, one day before Lucia.