Holiday Traditions: The Burning Gävle Goat

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In a tiny Swedish town called Gävle, a quirky holiday tradition exists.

Each and every year, a giant replica of the traditional Swedish Yule Goat is erected out of straw in the center of town. Some might think, “how festive!” or “how quaint!” The townspeople are extremely proud of the statue and love to tell stories of it’s interesting history.

But why is the Gävle Goat’s story so interesting? Let’s chalk that one up to vandals, cheeky teenagers, or bored adults…who burn the goat to the ground almost every year.

The Gävle Goat was destroyed for the first time in 1966, when a vandal from a neighboring town burnt it to the ground on New Years Eve. Sadly, this was one of the few times the goat made it past Christmas.

In fact, it’s become a game for the villagers of Gävle to see just how long the goat will last each year. Sometimes it burns within days of being erected, while other years it makes it to the second week in December.

Here is a brief, and hilarious, history of the Gävle Goat’s flaming end:

1970 The goat was burnt down only six hours after it was assembled. Two very drunk teenagers were connected with the crime. With help from several financial contributors the goat was reassembled out of lake reed.

1979 The goat was burnt even before it was erected. A new one was built and fireproofed. It was destroyed and broken into pieces.

1982 Burnt down on Lucia (December 13).

1987 A heavily fireproofed goat was built. It was burnt down a week before Christmas.

1995 A Norwegian was arrested for attempting to burn down the goat. Burnt down on the morning of Christmas Day.

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 December 3.

Just remember, the next time you plan to visit the east coast of Sweden before Christmas, you can’t forget your gingerbread man costume!

Does your hometown have any off-the-wall holiday traditions? If so, let us know in the comments. We’d love to cover them!

Mandy Burkholder is a travel, adventure, and outdoor writer who honed her craft in the foothills of the La Plata Mountains of Southwest Colorado. After a stint in the Swiss Alps, she now resides in Tennessee. Follow her on twitter — @mandyburkhold3r

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