Sweden’s Christmas Goat — a giant decorative goat made of straw and wood — is celebrating its 50th birthday.
It’s erected at the beginning of Advent and has become famous for not lasting until Christmas.
The endangered Christmas Goat
Despite security measures and a nearby fire station, the goat has been burned to the ground most years. As of November 2016, the goat has been damaged 36 times. Swedish and British bookmakers now offer odds on the goat surviving the season of Advent.
The weirder attacks include being battered by a souped-up Volvo, burned during a major blizzard, burned down by a baffled American tourist and burned down by arrow-wielding santas and gingerbread men.
So dangerous is the goat’s life that you can follow it via webcam, Twitter and Instagram.
This year’s traditional Christmas Goat got burned down on its inauguration day, even though it was equipped with closed-circuit TV. A week later, a vandal drove a car into the tiny replica of the original straw beast.
Here’s an uplifting message from the doomed Christmas Goat on Twitter, described as “I’m THE straw goat of the world, I fancy Christmas and I don’t play with matches.”
Oh no, such a short amount of time with you my friends. ? But I shall rise from the ashes and see you next year again!
— Gävlebocken (@Gavlebocken) November 27, 2016
Here’s a comprehensive list from Wikipedia of the many weird demises of the Christmas Goat since 1966.
|Year||Security additions||Date of destruction||Method of destruction||Notes|
|1969||Inside of goat protected by chicken-wire netting.||December 31||Fire|
|1970||Six hours after construction||Fire blamed on two drunk teenagers||With help from several financial contributors the goat was reassembled out of lake reed.|
|1971||?||Smashed to pieces||The Southern Merchants became tired of their goats being burned down, and stopped constructing them. The Natural Science Club from the School of Vasa took over and built a miniature goat.|
|1976||?||Hit by a car|
|1978||?||Kicked to pieces|
|1979||After the first goat was burned, a second was fireproofed.||Prior to assembly||Fire / Broken||The second goat of the year was destroyed and broken into pieces.|
|1985||Enclosed by a 2 metres (6.6 ft) high metal fence, guarded by Securitas and soldiers from the Gävle I 14 InfantryRegiment.||January||Fire||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.|
|1986||December 23||Fire||The Southern Merchants built their first goat since 1971, and it was burned. From 1986 onwards two goats were built each year, one by the Southern Merchants’ and one by the School of Vasa.|
|1988||Survived||Gamblers were for the first time able to gamble on the fate of the goat with English bookmakers.|
|1989||Prior to assembly / January||Fire / Fire||Financial contributions from the public were raised to rebuild a goat, and the second goat was burnt down in January. In March 1990 another goat was built, this time for the shooting of a Swedish motion picturecalled Black Jack.|
|1990||The goat was guarded by many volunteers.||Survived|
|1991||December 24||Fire||The goat was joined by an advertising sled, that turned out to be illegally built. It was later rebuilt to be taken to Stockholm as a part of a protest campaign against the closing of the I 14 Infantry Regiment.|
|1992||After 8 days, and again on December 20||Fire / Fire||Both the Natural Science Club and Southern Merchants’ goats burned down on the same night. The latter was rebuilt, and burned down on 20 December. The perpetrator of the three attacks was caught and sent to jail. The Goat Committee was founded in 1992.|
|1993||Guarded by taxis[clarification needed]and the Swedish Home Guard||Survived||Once more the goat was featured in the Guinness Book of Records, the School of Vasa’s goat measured 14.9 metres (49 ft).|
|1994||Survived||The goat followed the Swedish national hockey team to Italy for the World Championship in hockey.|
|1995||December 25||Fire||A Norwegian was arrested for attempting to burn down the goat. It was rebuilt for the 550th anniversary of Gävleborg County.|
|1996||Monitored by webcams.||Survived|
|1997||Survived with damage||Damaged by fireworks. The Natural Science Club’s goat was attacked too, but survived with minor damage.|
|1998||December 11||Fire||Burned down during a major blizzard, and was rebuilt.|
|1999||Within hours||Fire||The Southern Merchants’ goat was rebuilt again before Lucia. The Natural Science Club’s goat was also burnt down.|
|2000||Late December||Fire / water||The Natural Science Club’s goat was thrown into the Gävle river.|
|2001||December 23||Fire||A visitor from Cleveland, Ohio in the United States, was arrested for burning the goat. The Natural Science Club’s goat was also burnt down.|
|2002||On Lucia, the goat was guarded by Swedish radio and TV personality Gert Fylking.||Survived||A 22-year-old from Stockholm tried to set the Southern Merchants’ goat on fire, but failed, the goat receiving only minor damage.|
|2005||December 3||Fire||Burnt by unknown vandals reportedly dressed as Santa and the gingerbread man, by shooting a flaming arrow at the goat. Reconstructed on 5 December. The hunt for the arsonist responsible for the goat-burning in 2005 was featured on the weekly Swedish live broadcast TV3’s “Most Wanted” (“Efterlyst“) on 8 December.|
|2006||December 20||Fire||The Southern Merchants’ goat survived New Year’s Eve and was taken down on 2 January. It is now stored in a secret location.|
|2007||December 24||Fire||The Natural Science Club’s goat was toppled on 13 December and was burned on the night of 24 December. The Southern Merchants’ goat survived.|
|2008||December 27||Fire||10,000 people turned out for the inauguration of one of the goats. No back-up goat was built to replace the main goat should the worst happen, nor was the goat treated with flame repellent (Anna Östman, spokesperson of the Goat-committee said the repellent made it look ugly in the previous years, like a brown terrier). On 16 December the Natural Science Club’s Goat was vandalised and later removed. On 26 December there was an attempt to burn down the Southern Merchants’ Goat but patriotic passers-by managed to extinguish the fire. The following day the goat finally succumbed to the flames ignited by an unknown assailant at 03:50 CET.|
|2009||December 23||Fire||A person attempted to set the Southern Merchants’ goat on fire the night of 7 December. An unsuccessful attempt was made to throw the Natural Science Club’s goat into the river the weekend of 11 December. The culprit then tried, again without success, to set the goat on fire. Someone stole the Natural Science Club’s goat using a truck on the night of 14 December. On the night of 23 December before 04:00 the South Merchant goat was set on fire and was burned to the frame, even though it had a thick layer of snow on its back. The goat had two online webcams which were put out of service by a DoS attack, instigated by computer hackers just before the burning.|
|2010||Survived||On the night of 2 December, arsonists made an unsuccessful attempt to burn the Natural Science Club’s goat. On 17 December, a Swedish news site reported that one of the guards tasked with protecting the Southern Merchants’ goat had been offered payment to leave his post so that the goat could be stolen via helicopter and transported to Stockholm. Both goats survived and were dismantled and returned to storage in early January 2011.|
|2011||Sprayed with water to create a coating of ice.||December 2||Fire||Mild weather resulted in the protective ice melting.|
|2013||Soaked in flame-retardant.||December 21||Fire|
|2014||Survived||At least three arson attempts were made.|
|2016||November 27||Fire||Destroyed by an arsonist equipped with petrol on its inauguration day. Organizers said the goat would not be rebuilt this year; however, it was replaced by a smaller “replica”.|
Siobhan O’Shea is a freelance writer. She writes about pretty much everything but especially likes to bring readers’ attention to new tech, marketing, human behavior, and other oddities.