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Swedes hope to rebuild burned-down yule goat

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Swedes hope to rebuild burned-down yule goat
The Gävle goat, after and before. Photo: Roger Nilsson/Pernilla Wahlman/TT
12:32 CET+01:00
This year's unfortunate version of Gävle town's giant Christmas straw goat could rise from the ashes with the help of fundraising, after it was burned to the ground on its inauguration day.

The 13-metre-tall, 3.6 tonne straw goat in Gävle, central Sweden, was launched for the year's festival period on Sunday. But just hours later it was engulfed in flames, as The Local reported on Monday morning.

This is not a new occurrence. Although it is not exactly a Christmas tradition as such, at least not one endorsed by authorities, the yule goat has built its international fame on its popularity among arsonists. It has been attacked and destroyed 34 times over its 50-year history – 35 times if you count Sunday.

But this time the organizers behind the Gävle Goat, as it is called, have decided that they will not give up without a fight and are looking into whether or not it would be possible to rebuild it before Christmas.

"We want the goat to live more than a few hours. We're going to look into now if it is possible to quickly build a new goat and what it would cost," goat spokesperson Maria Wallberg said.

The work of erecting the giant straw beast takes around 1000 hours, and the material alone costs more than 100,000 kronor, not counting cost for the work. The council would attempt to raise funds for the project.

"The goat is loved all over the world and I am convinced that the friends of the goat both want to and will donate money to build a new one," said Wallberg in a statement announcing the news.

A poll has been set up on Facebook to ask Gävle residents if they want a new goat. By lunchtime on Monday more than 2500 had voted yes and only some 120 had said no.

A final decision is to be made by Wednesday, said Wallberg.

"We want to know what Gävle residents think. Their opinion is important when we make a decision if we then choose to rebuild the goat," she added.

This year the local municipality spent 2.3 million kronor ($249,900) on the construction of the Christmas icon, its marketing, and the launch party. With 2016 also its 50th anniversary, the hope was to prevent a repeat of previous early endings.

In September, local politicians said they would try to have a ‘goat guarantee' that it would survive its first weekend of the 2016 festive season. A number of high-tech security cameras were bought to try to protect it and two security guards were patrolling the area, yet they were unable to detect the goat burner.

Police are looking for the perpetrator and have launched a preliminary investigation for inflicting gross damage. No arrests have been made, and officers will continue the investigation during Monday. 

Last year the goat was set alight by a drunken man on December 27th. He had initially denied responsibility for the fire, but a singed face, smell of gasoline and lighter in his hand at the time of apprehension was something of a giveaway.  

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