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December 16, 2009 11:15 AM   Subscribe

Every Christmas since 1966, the Swedish town of Gävle has built an enormous traditional Yule goat of straw. And almost every Christmas, someone tries to set fire to him.

To while away the time between conflagrations, he posts to his blog. If you'd like to help keep an eye out for arsonists, you can watch a Christmas Goat Webcam.
posted by zamboni (31 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
Animals are fine, but their acceptability is limited. A little child is even better, but not NEARLY as effective as the right kind of adult.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:19 AM on December 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


But the Goat needs blood. It would be wise not to anger him.
posted by The Whelk at 11:27 AM on December 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Failing to set the big one on fire, they kidnapped "little brother" and tried throwing him in the river? Ain't much else to do around Falun is there?
posted by dabitch at 11:30 AM on December 16, 2009


Even the goat is talking about Tiger Woods and Idol tv shows. Makes me want to burninate it too.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 11:32 AM on December 16, 2009


For some reason, the goat mortality table in the wikipedia article really amused me.
posted by maxwelton at 11:32 AM on December 16, 2009 [7 favorites]


I'm imagining an Advent calendar mixed up with Russian Roulette. Every day, a box is placed under the Great Straw Goat. The contents of the box are either sweets/candy/food or a firebomb.
posted by now i'm piste at 11:42 AM on December 16, 2009 [4 favorites]


In 2007 The goat was impregnated with flame retardant chemicals and was not attacked by arsonists.
Well, sure! What sick bastard would want to set fire to a pregnant straw goat?

How long is a straw goat's gestation period, anyway?
posted by zarq at 11:42 AM on December 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


In 2006 the goat survived a pyromaniac attack on December 15th

I think in a town where, practically by tradition, someone sets fire to a straw goat almost every year, you need a less harsh word than 'pyromaniac' for people who attempt it.
posted by gurple at 11:48 AM on December 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Goat set on fire on 23 December by Lawrence Jones, a 51-year-old visitor from Cleveland, Ohio, who spent 18 days in jail and was subsequently convicted and ordered to pay 100,000 Swedish kronor in damages. The court also confiscated Jones's cigarette lighter with the argument that he clearly was not able to handle it. Jones stated in court that he is no "goat burner", and believed that he was taking part in a completely legal goat-burning tradition. After Jones was released from prison he went straight back to the US without paying his fine.

2005 Burned by unknown vandals reportedly dressed as Santa and a gingerbread man by shooting a flaming arrow or molotov cocktail at the goat at 21:00 on 3 December.

2006 On the night of 25 December, a drunken man managed to climb up on the goat. Before the police arrived on the scene the man climbed down and disappeared.[26] He did not try to set fire to the goat. The Southern Merchants' goat survived New Year's Eve and was taken down on 2 January. It is now stored in a secret location.
The goat leads a pretty lively existence.
posted by winna at 11:49 AM on December 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


The Refreshments have an excellent song, "The Billy Goat", which I ended up putting on an "Un-Xmas" music mix this year. I had no idea it had more of a backstory. Thanks for sharing this!
posted by hippybear at 11:58 AM on December 16, 2009


I think in a town where, practically by tradition, someone sets fire to a straw goat almost every year, you need a less harsh word than 'pyromaniac' for people who attempt it.

pyroreasonable? pyrotraditionalist?
posted by DU at 11:58 AM on December 16, 2009 [4 favorites]


Hmmm. We have a picked apart Christmas Goat in the attic from too much holiday festivity. Now I kind of want to launch a flaming arrow into him.
posted by jeanmari at 11:59 AM on December 16, 2009


Failing to set the big one on fire, they kidnapped "little brother" and tried throwing him in the river? Ain't much else to do around Falun is there?

No, there really isn't.
posted by iigloo at 12:10 PM on December 16, 2009


When I first came here, this was all swamp. Everyone said I was daft to build a castle goat on a swamp, but I built it all the same, just to show them. It sank into the swamp. So I built a second one. That sank into the swamp. So I built a third. That burned down, fell over, then sank into the swamp. But the fourth one stayed up. And that's what you're going to get, Lad, the strongest castle goat in all of England Sweden.
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 12:11 PM on December 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


The wiki link on the Christmas goat has some interesting facts:
A Swedish custom that has been known up to this century is juleoffer (Yule Sacrifice), where young men with their faces grimed would dance and sing. One of the men was dressed up as the Yule Goat, while the others pretended to slaughter it. During the singing, different slaughter tools were brought in, and the dance ended with the Yule Goat being slaughtered, and then it would wake up again.

The Yule Goat is nowadays best known as a Christmas ornament, a figure, often made out of straw or roughly-hewn wood. In older Scandinavian society a popular prank was to place the Yule Goat in a neighbour's house without them noticing; the family successfully pranked had to get rid of it in the same way.... Large versions of this ornament are frequently erected in towns and cities around Christmas time — these goats tend to be illegally set on fire before Christmas. The Gävle goat was the first of these goats, and remains the most famous as well as the most burnt down.
Given that the yule goat was originally a sacrifice and rebirth tradition, I think the burning of the goat is quite fitting. Anyway, who would want to bring out the same soggy goat, year after year?

Also, I propose a merging of the hidden goat and burning goat traditions: place a goat in a paper bag, then place the bag on your neighbor's doorstep. Light the bag on fire, ring the doorbell and run. Your neighbor steps on the bag to put out the fire, only to find the goat on their doorstep!
posted by filthy light thief at 12:23 PM on December 16, 2009


young men with their faces grimed would dance and sing
That described 80% of the concerts I've been to in the last 20 years.
posted by Wolfdog at 12:33 PM on December 16, 2009


This is way cooler than a stupid old tree. Yule goat foar the win!~!1!
posted by tspae at 12:34 PM on December 16, 2009


Yule goat is awesome.
posted by marxchivist at 12:39 PM on December 16, 2009


Maybe people mistake it for the Burning Goat festival.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 1:05 PM on December 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


I am shamelessly appropriating this custom. Thank you!
posted by everichon at 1:50 PM on December 16, 2009


Why not go with the burning? Schedule a community burn of the goat for January 6th -12th night.
posted by Cranberry at 2:29 PM on December 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Thanks to that webcam, it looks like I'm going to spend the day being a Man Who Stares At Goats...waiting for them to catch on fire.

No action yet.
posted by Jimbob at 2:31 PM on December 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Anyone who builds a giant thing out of straw and plops it right in the middle of the town square surrounded by a fence is just asking for trouble - of a most incendiary nature.

Instead, make it out of used plastic shopping bags. Man, the stink, and that horrible black toxic smoke with those little flying soot boogers that stick to stuff - no one's going to wanna burn that.

Funny, my foot fits perfectly in these here footsteps....
posted by CynicalKnight at 2:33 PM on December 16, 2009


I alwaya enjoy seeing a 21st-century application for flaming arrows.
posted by Diablevert at 5:55 PM on December 16, 2009 [4 favorites]


And now for our more dreadful sacrifice....
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 12:15 AM on December 17, 2009


1976 Local raggare ran the goat over with a car.
posted by ovvl at 4:42 AM on December 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Did you know that the Yule Goat has a name-name? You may call him Julbock or Julbokk.
posted by goml at 1:07 PM on December 17, 2009


Update:

This year's goat was burned down to its skeleton.
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 11:01 AM on December 23, 2009


This year's goat was burned down to its skeleton.

I know this phrase gets used a lot. People are probably sick of it. But the burning of the Yule goat is the exact, perfect situation for which this phrase was coined:

This is why we can't have nice things.
posted by marxchivist at 11:09 AM on December 23, 2009


I'm pretty sure if you build a gigantic straw goat during the darkest month of the year you're asking for it to become a bonfire offering to the Old Ones so they'll return the Sun.
posted by The Whelk at 11:21 AM on December 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Straight from the Goat's blog:

The web cams of the Gavle Goat have been attacked. The traffic increased heavily during 2 PM yesterday and 3AM when he was set on fire. The web cams were then refreshed every 10 minutes instead of every 3-4 seconds as normal, so there are no pics from the minutes when he was set on fire. We suspect that it was a planned attack in order to make the web cams slower
posted by at the crossroads at 12:48 PM on December 27, 2009


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