For three years in a row now, a Swedish Christmas symbol has been safely planted on the town square in Gävle, a big city in east central Sweden.
It is surprising, you see, because the Chrismas Goat – Gävlebocken – is mostly famous for burning to the ground each year since it was first erected in 1966. Made out of straw and decorated with holiday ribbons and lights, the goat weighs 3 tons and measures 13 by 7 yards.
In 1966, the goat burned down on New Year’s Eve. In 1976, a rare car drove into it, destroying it. In 1983, someone broke the legs off the goat.
In 1988, Englishmen would gamble on what day the goat would go up in flames, but it never did. In 1990, a group of volunteers offered to guard the goat day and night, and they successfully kept it “alive” through the holiday season.
Since 1996, two web cameras have been mounted for continuous surveillance of the straw figure. Anyone who wishes can follow the goat’s destiny on the web. But that didn’t stop vandals from attacking it again.
In 1997, fireworks damaged the goat and in 1998, 1999 and 2000, it was again damaged by fire. In 2001, a 51-year-old American tourist torched the goat on Dec. 23.
2002 was a magnificent year for Gävlebocken, as it was the first in six years it made it through an entire season untouched. But all was back to normal in 2003, when it burned down two nights before Lucia on Dec. 11. A new goat was in place a week later.
More attacks came in 2004, 2005 and 2006, although during the last one only the goat’s leg was hurt.
In 2007, someone finally came to their senses and sprayed the entire goat with flame retardant. One must assume similar measures were taken this year, since they were successful.