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Sweden's Christmas goat succumbs to flames

TT/Rebecca Martin · 2 Dec 2011, 07:21

Published: 02 Dec 2011 07:21 GMT+01:00

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“Only the skeleton is left,” said Sven-Erik Hammar of the Gävle police to news agency TT.

Police received a call in the early hours of Friday, reporting that the goat was on fire. Five minutes later it had gone up in smoke.

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

Half of the inhabitants take pride in the giant animal, while the other half take equal pride in attempting to burn it down.

This year’s goat was the 45th to be erected in the town. At least 28 of these have been burned down before the end of the Christmas season.

The burning of the goat has made headlines both in Sweden and abroad.

In 2001, it was torched by an American tourist, who served a month in jail and was fined 100,000 kronor ($14,700), while claiming in his defense that he thought he had been participating in a local and perfectly legal tradition.

Since 1988 people have been able to place bets on whether it will survive, or how long it lasts before being burnt down.

Previous attempts to sabotage it have included the bribing of security guards and a foiled helicopter heist.

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

This year, those trying to protect the goat doused it in water with the idea that if it freezes, it will be much more difficult to burn down, according to daily Aftonbladet.

Story continues below…

However, perhaps due to the unusually mild weather, their idea didn’t quite work out.

Despite emergency services arriving on the scene within a few minutes, he goat could not be saved.

“It all went damn quickly,” said eye-witness Felix Söderström to daily Aftonbladet,

TT/Rebecca Martin (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

09:04 December 2, 2011 by Céitinn
If they wanted to stop the goat being burnt down it could be easily achieved. I think they like the publicity.

I am a layman so here are my two ideas, soak the straw in a flame retardant, hardly rocket science. The other is to have a sprinkler system which soaks the goat every hour when the temp is above + 2.

Maybe the two suggestions are not 100% foolproof but it is better than doing nothing.
09:22 December 2, 2011 by Douglas Garner
I live in Gävle... this year, it was burned so fast as to deny most local children even the opportunity to see and enjoy it. Not very funny, and quite disapointing. So much for any possibility of tourists to see the famous goat... unless they rebuild it, again.

I love the goat...LONG LIVE THE GOAT!
09:41 December 2, 2011 by Rishonim
The local authorities don't have the intelligence to stop this yearly goat burning. They are too busy raping and supplying drugs to 15 year old girls. A cheap CCTV will do the job.
09:46 December 2, 2011 by Liquidmonkey
it should b allowed to stand until dec 26th so everyone can c it.

then let the burning begin :)
10:08 December 2, 2011 by BrittInSweden
They should make burning a part of the celebrations.

Put it up, celebrate and then when it is due to come down have a village event of the burning (like bonfire night in the UK) then everyone is happy.
10:18 December 2, 2011 by Steggles
After 45 years you would think they had read the story of the Three Liitle Pigs and the Big Bad Wolf!
11:25 December 2, 2011 by Purple_Rache
I agree with the making it a tradition to burn it AFTER Christmas. I have never seen it in person, and we are even scheduled to go to Gävle next weekend. I was very sad and annoyed to see it had already burnt down. I hope they'll replace it. As for the flame retardant, they have done that in previous years. I remember a few years back they stated publicly that the goat had no fire retardant that year and there was no replacement. I think the people at the top wanted it to burn that year, like a previous commenter said, more publicity.

Poor, defenceless goat. Just trying to bring some Christmas cheer.
12:44 December 2, 2011 by HenryPollard
See? This is why we can't have nice things..
13:12 December 2, 2011 by DavidtheNorseman
Will they rebuild the Goat this year?
15:57 December 2, 2011 by Svensksmith
Make the goat out of asbestos.
16:32 December 2, 2011 by chemo007
thank GOD an American burnt it in 2001.....otherwise local gonna mention as a terrorist act by some immigrants........:D
16:39 December 2, 2011 by Joona
Actually, the scorched metal frame looks very artsy. Cyberpunk (or steampunk) goat. Kyberpukki.
17:46 December 2, 2011 by gabeltoon
I am in SCOTLAND but i have to agree with comment no 5. Rebuild it for the children to see. To thoughs who burnt it down "STOP RUINING IT FOR OTHERS"
18:22 December 2, 2011 by Joona
Folk traditions come and go... more oten they come than go, though. The Gävle goat burning has already established itself as a folk tradition, even if not officially endorsed. My guess is about half of the people would be pissed if it didn't happen. And if it became official, it would lose its "magic" for being a rogue prank.

The Fennoscandian Yule tradition is a lot more rowdy than the watered down hush-hush, all be nice not naughty christian substitute. I recommend a movie called Rare Exports.

These are only my Finnish thoughts and opinions. I really dunno how the folks in the neighbour take it.
22:01 December 2, 2011 by dizzymoe33
I say build it again and keep it up until it is time to take it down and have a big bon-fire with it!! That way everyone wins!!!
22:58 December 2, 2011 by rumcajs
Doesn't it get burned EVERY year? If we know some1 is gonna try to burn it coz it's AAAALWAYS the same, so put a guard there ( If you don't want them to burn it of course ). You don't need a Rambo or the entire SAS to keep an eye on the thing, do ya?
11:13 December 3, 2011 by Joona
They've already tried flame retardants and camera surveillance and motion sensors. The harder they try, more lucrative the challenge for these "goat hackers". Guards can be distracted... If some kids or adult kids want to play Mission Impossible, I say so be it.

For example, in 1985: "The 12.5 metre (41 ft) tall goat of the Natural Science Club was featured in the Guinness Book of Records for the first time. Even though the goat was enclosed by a 2 metres (6.6 ft) high metal fence, guarded by Securitas and even soldiers from the Gävle I 14 Infantry Regiment, it was burnt down in January."


Almost every Swedish family (and Finnish, as the tradition has been adopted) have a home Yule straw goat or several. If someone burned our home goat, THEN I'd be pissed.
10:31 December 4, 2011 by spo10
Every year same story - it got burned down. Put a 24/7 guard on the area if you want to see it make through the holiday season.
14:26 December 4, 2011 by Ankinette
I'm goated....
16:07 December 5, 2011 by Birchleaf
Actually, it was not burnt last year! :-)

It's been torched 28 times out of 45, so it's just a little more than 50/50. Guess it stands at 62% at the moment.

And surveillance cameras don't help. One year two people diguised as Santa and a gingerbread man set it on fire from across the street with burning arrows, then took off before police arrived. Another year the cameras were hacked and stopped functioning for about 15 minutes, and when they went on again the goat was ablaze. :-(

I couldn't care less if they burn it AFTER Xmas, but burning it less than a week after it was built, and three weeks before Xmas is really a mood destroyer. Throw the bastards in jail! ;-(
01:02 December 7, 2011 by Western
Call the burning tradition or what you will, those who burn are spoilers and destroyers. The goat does not belong to them, they did not pay for it or work to make it. Children would love to see such a thing and so would many adults. A clean simple pleasure has been taken away by irresponsible and unthinking or perhaps uncaring vandals.

Children read the goat blog. How do you explain to a small child that somebody burned it down just to be able to say they did.

I am sad the camera has been taken down, I enjoy seeing what is happening on the other side of the world.
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