12 Days of Unusual Christmas Traditions (Day 1 - The Gävle Goat) - Blog - 89.9 The Wave
December 10, 2019 | by: Jamie Paterson

12 Days of Unusual Christmas Traditions (Day 1 – The Gävle Goat)

The Yule goat is a Scandinavian Christmas symbol and tradition. Its origin may be Germanic pagan and has existed in many variants during Scandinavian history. Modern representations of the Yule goat are typically made of straw… you can even buy one at Ikea (while supplies last).  That should be unusual enough, but there’s a rather famous (or infamous) Yule goat in the Swedish town of Gävle.  First of all, it’s the largest straw goat in the world.  Here are some stats from the Guinness Book of Records:

  • The Gävle Goat is 13 metres (42.6 feet) high, seven metres long and weighs 3.6 tonnes.
  • It takes a whole truck full of straw from the local village of Mackmyra to create the goat.
  • 1,600 meters of rope is used.
  • 12,000 knots are tied.
  • 56 five metre straw mats form the straw coat.
  • 1,200 metres of Swedish pine create the wooden skeleton.
  • 1,000 man-hours of work are needed to build the Gävle Goat.
  • The Gävle Goat is inaugurated on the first Sunday of Advent every year, in conjunction with the “skyltsöndagen”.
  • The Gävle Goat has friends in more than 120 countries around the world who follow him in social media.

Since 1966, the 13-metre-tall Yule Goat has been built in the centre of Gävle’s Castle Square for the Advent, but this traditional goat has unwittingly led to another “tradition” of sorts…


Since 1966 the Goat has been successfully burned down 29 times – the most recent destruction was in 2016.

This year’s goat was put up December 1st and so far, it’s still standing… but if you want to check in on it,  you can follow its progress HERE on the Visit Gävle website through a live video stream.


THE 60’S

1966, On Dec 1 the 13 meter tall goat was put into place for the first time. On New Year’s Eve, at midnight, the goat went up in flames. The perpetrator was found and charged for vandalism.

In 1967, the goat was left unharmed.

In 1968, the goat was left unharmed too.

In 1969, someone burned the goat on New year’s eve.


THE 70’S

In year 1970, the first goat that was put up got destroyed within six hours. Two very drunk adolescents were connected to the crime.

By 1971, the tradesmen of Gävle were fed up with burned goats and quit the goat making business. The Natural Science Society of Vasaskolan took over. Their smaller goat was smashed into pieces.

In 1972, the goat imploded due to sabotage.

In 1973, the goat faced an uncertain destiny.

In 1974, the goat was burned to the ground.

1975, yet another unknown fate.

In 1976, the goat was hit and destroyed by a car.

1977 – Once more, an unknown fate.

In 1978, the goat was once again smashed into pieces.

In 1979, someone burned the goat even before he was put up. Another goat was built and drenched in flame retardants, but also that one was sabotaged and destroyed.


THE 80’S

In 1980, the goat was burned down on Christmas Eve.

1981 – Unharmed!

In 1982, the goat was burned on 13th of December.

In 1983, his legs were destroyed.

In 1984, he was burned down.

1985, Measuring in at 12.5 meters, the goat enters Guinness Book of Records for the first time. Burned down in January.

In 1986, burned down on the night before Christmas Eve.

In 1987, the goat was heavily impregnated with fire retardants. Nevertheless, someone burned him down during the week before Christmas.

In 1988, the goat made it through completely unharmed. He also became a betting object on British betting charts.

In 1989, the goat was set on fire even before he was constructed. Money for a new goat was raised from the public; however, the new goat burned in January.


THE 90’S

In 1990, the goat was left unharmed. This year, many volunteered as guards.

In 1991, someone set the goat on fire on Christmas Eve.

In 1992, the goat was on fire within eight days. The goat was rebuilt… but set on fire again on the Dec 20th. The arsonist of both goats was arrested.

In 1993, the goat was once again included in the Guinness Book of Records, 16 meters tall. Left unharmed.

In 1994, the goat was left unharmed.

In 1995, it burned on Christmas Day morning. He was rebuilt in order to partake in the festivities when Gävle celebrated 550 years as a city.

In 1996, he was guarded by a webcam for the first time. The goat made it through without being set on fire.

1997 – Besides smaller damages caused by fireworks, the goat was unharmed.

In 1998, the goat burned on the 11th of December. However, he was rebuilt.

In 1999, he burned only a few hours after he was put up. The goat was rebuilt and put up again.


THE 00’S

In 2000, the goat was burned just a few days before New Year’s Eve.

In 2001, a 51-year-old American visiting Sweden set the pride of Gävle on fire, the day before Christmas Eve.

In 2002, the people of Gävle enjoyed a completely unharmed goat.

In 2003, the goat burned. A new goat, which made it through unharmed, was put up a week later.

In 2004, the goat burned on the 21st of December; only three days before Christmas. No new goat was put up.

In 2005, the goat burned on the 3rd of December. A new goat was put up on the 8th and that one was left unharmed.

In 2006, the goat survived the deed of a pyromaniac on the night before the 15th of December; he was only slightly scorched on his right leg. After that, the goat was left unharmed.

In 2007, the goat was heavily drenched in fire retardants, and was not a victim of pyromaniacs.

In 2008, the goat was not chemically protected; instead, the pure straw was delivered from the producers of Mackmyra Whisky. He burned on the 27th of December.

In 2009, the goat was burned on the night of Dec 23rd. At the same time, the webcams fell victim to a hacker attack, so the arsonists were never caught on tape.


THE 10’S

In 2010, the goat made it unharmed. However, someone was plotting to kidnap the goat with a helicopter and bring him to Stockholm.

In 2011, the goat only stood for five days. Up in flames on the Dec 2nd.

In 2012, someone set the goat on fire the night before the 13th of December. The fire started in his left hind leg.

In 2013 the goat was burned on Dec 21st, just after 4 o’ clock.

In 2014, the goat was spared from fire. He also went on a long trip to visit Zhuhai City in China, in order to celebrate that Gävle and Zhuhai had been sister cities for five years.

In 2015, the goat was burned on the 27th of December.

In 2016, the goat was burned only a few hours after his grand 50th birthday party. His unofficial little brother, built by the students of Vasaskolan, got to fill in at the Castle Square. However, Little Brother was hit by a car on the 5th of December!

In 2017, the goat was left unharmed.

In 2018, the goat was left unharmed, too.

Once again, if you want to check up on THIS year’s goat, click HERE