Swedish ‘Yule goat’ burned as locals revive holiday tradition

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Swedish 'Yule goat' burned as locals revive holiday tradition

It’s a holiday tradition to warm the heart.

A giant straw “Yule goat” in the Swedish town of Gävle was torched Friday night for the first time in five years, bringing back the long-running tradition of arson that’s led to the holiday symbol being set ablaze for decades.

The Gävle Goat is a 42-foot-high, 3.6-ton statue made of wood and straw erected in the town square each Christmas season. It’s a giant version of the small Yule goats that Swedes traditionally place around their homes during the holidays, a ritual tracing back to pre-Christian pagan festivals, according to Reuters.

Gävle’s first giant goat was built in 1966 as a marketing ploy. It was burned down on New Year’s Eve that year by unknown vandals.

There have been dozens of attacks on the horned livestock since then, leaving authorities scrambling to stop the destruction, the CBC reported. Grinches have tried to drive cars over it, smash it with clubs and even torch it with fireworks. In 2005, two people — one dressed as Santa and the other a gingerbread man — shot the goat with flaming arrows.

In 2010, someone attempted to abduct the “Gävlebocken,” as it’s known locally, with a helicopter.

A police officer stands near the frame of a giant straw Yule goat after it was set ablaze
An unnamed man in his 40s has been arrested in connection with the blaze, according to reports.
Pernilla Wahlman/TT News Agency/via REUTERS

During its 53-year-history, the goat has survived the Yuletide season unscathed only about 15 times. It was placed under 24-hour security in 2016 and managed to remain protected from arson and other attacks until this year, The Verge reported

“My heart really feels for the goat-builders who have put a lot of time and effort in building him,” said a heartbroken Rebecca Steiner, a spokesperson for the Gävlebocken. “And of course, I feel really sad as well for his fans, and for myself as well,”

“He’s this Christmas symbol that’s supposed to bring joy and happiness and Christmas feelings,” she added. “Then someone sabotages this.”

An unnamed man in his 40s has been arrested in connection with the blaze, according to reports.

A view of the frame of a giant straw Yule goat after it was set ablaze
The goat has survived the Yuletide season unscathed only about 15 times
Pernilla Wahlman/TT News Agency/via REUTERS

Undeterred, the Gävle goat has vowed to return. “Nooo, It’s literally the worst feeling to go down in flames,” read a post from its official Twitter account. “But the comeback is always stronger than the setback.”

Making a pun on the Swedish word for billy goat, the incinerated effigy then promised “I’ll be bock!”

 

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