Every Year, a Swedish Town Builds a Giant Straw Goat, And People Just Can’t Help Burning It Down

In the 47 years that the town has erected Gävlebocken, it’s been set on fire 26 times

Burning Goat
Courtesy of Flickr user Johan Karlborg

Every year, the town of Gavle, Sweden, erects a giant goat called the Gävlebocken. And most years that goat burns to the ground. In fact, in the 47 years that the town has erected Gävlebocken, it's been set on fire 26 times.

But this year, local officials are confident that they can keep the goat alive. According to The Local, the new goat is made from sturdier stuff and soaked it in anti-flammable liquid. The last two years, they did this the goat survived, but even with the precautions officials aren't going to hold their breath this year:

"You never know, we've made it from material that's a little stronger this year, so it should be much harder to burn down," a spokesperson at the Gävle tourist office told The Local.

"But we're aware that the goat is only famous because it gets burned. It would be great if it didn't actually burn down this year, because that would be the most unexpected result. Then we might really get a lot of attention."

Last year, the goat only made it to December 12th before going up in flames. And according to Allison Meier at Atlas Obscura, it's not just fire that people throw at the poor goat, "in the past it's been hit by cars, attacked by a Gingerbread Man, and almost stolen with a helicopter." Meier also explains why this town erects a 40 foot tall goat in the first place:

The Gävle Goat is a towering version of the Yule Goat that is a popular Christmas tradition in Scandinavia. It has pagan origins and was once depicted as the companion bringer of holiday gifts with Saint Nicholas before Santa ruined the fun. While the tradition of waiting for the goat to burn has become as popular as the Gävle Goat itself, the town has far from embraced this unruly rite of winter. Instead, security continues to be added and it is monitored with a live web cam (which, alas, tends to just capturethe quick flame destruction of the heap of kindling).

To keep up with the goats status, you can follow it on Twitter. Should it go down in flames, we're hoping there are some exceptional live Tweets.

More from Smithsonian.com:

Indexed: Fire by the Numbers
This is What Fire Breathing Looks Like in Slow Motion

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