Swedish town erects giant Christmas goat

Advent Sunday means it is time for the inauguration of the famous 13 metre tall Christmas goat (Gävlebocken) in the main square of Gävle, on the east coast of Sweden.

Swedish town erects giant Christmas goat

To the uninitiated, the annual saga of whether or not the goat survives intact until Christmas Day, has become a tradition of Yuletide in Sweden.

The giant straw goat, which has been erected in the town’s main square, Slottstorget, every year since 1966, undergoes a battle against the elements and local arsonists every year, which splits loyalties in the town.

Half of the people take pride in the giant animal, while the other half take equal pride in attempting to burn it down. To date, the goat has been burnt down more times than it has survived the Christmas period.

Large sums of money apparently change hands, as people bet on whether it will survive, or how long it lasts before being burnt down and previous attempts to sabotage it have even included the bribing of security guards.

Each year, new ingenious methods are employed to guarantee the survival of the goat, whose story has reached the Guiness Book of World Records, and 2011 is no exception.

Those trying to protect the goat are planning to douse it in water with the idea that if it freezes, it will be much more difficult to burn down, according to daily Aftonbladet.

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Sweden’s Christmas goat beats the arsonists for 19th time

The giant straw Christmas goat in the city of Gävle, which is every year the subject of a battle by the authorities to prevent it being burnt down by arsonists, has survived for the 19th time in its 56-year history.

Sweden’s Christmas goat beats the arsonists for 19th time

The 13-metre high goat, called Gävlebocken, had been temporarily moved this year from Slottstorget, or “castle square”, to the Rådhusesplanaden, or “town hall esplanade”, a change goat watchers believed could give the authorities an advantage.

The goat’s own Twitter account announced its victory in a tweet issued on Christmas Day.

“I made it. Merry Christmas,” it posted in English.

In its 56 years, the goat has been burned down 30 times and damaged in other ways seven times.


After 2016, when it was burned down within hours of being inaugurated, it remained intact until 2020, coming close to beating its four-year survival record. 

Last year, though, the goat was burnt down by a 40-year-old from Kalmar, who was later jailed for six months for aggravated vandalism and forced to pay a fine of 109,000 kronor, a deterrent that may also have increased the odds of the goat’s survival this year. 

According to the Swedish betting site Bettingsidor, it has been illegal to give odds on the goat’s survival since a new Swedish gambling license came into force in 2019. 

When The Local’s journalist, Becky Waterton, asked on Twitter whether readers thought the goat would survive this year, 61.3 percent thought it would perish before Christmas Eve.