Sweden’s straw goat known for arson has returned – and people are already wondering if it will survive
It’s the season to be happy or whatever, but for a city in Sweden, it may very well be the season when someone risks a criminal record for burning down a giant straw goat.
Every year in Gävle, a sweet straw goat – known as Gävlebocken or Gävlebocken in Swedish – is erected on Slottstorget as part of the area’s Christmas celebration. This year’s inauguration ‘takes place on Sunday.
It all sounds innocent enough and just that would not be enough for us to report on, but since it became a tradition in 1966, the goat has only survived the feast on 18 occasions.
During all the other years that the goat has been together in Gävle, it has been destroyed – more precisely, it has been burned down by the public who know that straw is particularly flammable.
Although this is a goat, not Guy Fawkes. And before we get a letter in the mail from some angry Swedish lawyers, we should probably mention that for those who build the goat every year, burning it down is something they really do not want.
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It is also very illegal.
Yet it has not stopped people, not even when they faced growing challenges from people who really did not want their goat to turn to ashes – who can blame them?
During its first year, it was burned down on New Year’s Eve. Three years later, in 1969, someone did the same.
A year later, two drunken youths burned it down. When local craftsmen were not so happy that their hard work was destroyed in 1971, Vasaskolan’s Naturvetenskapsförening took over the goat builder tasks, according to VisitGävle.se. Their goat also burned down.
In 1972, it was not even burned down. It imploded.
In some years the fate of the goat was unexplained, such as 1973, 1975 and 1977.
In a shock twist, the goat did not burn down in 1976 – it was hit by a car instead.
For two years, people went a little ahead of themselves, burning down the buck in 1979 and 1989 before it was to be assembled in Gävle.
The goat even entered the Guinness Book of Records in 1985 when it was 12.5 meters high, before of course being burned down.
Gävlesboken received a bit of an upgrade in 1987 when he was heavily fireproofed by the city.
However, that did not stop it from burning down.
A year later it got worse: you could actually bet in the UK if you thought the goat would survive or not – that year, miraculously, it did.
When the world entered the 90’s, a commercial sleigh was built illegally next to the goat. Although it was a slightly annoying installation, it does not detract from the fact that someone still managed to start the buck that year, 1991.
In some years, it was not even human fault that the goat was destroyed. A blizzard killed it in 1998.
In 2001, the burning became international when a 51-year-old American tourist – who thought it was perfectly legal to burn down a giant straw structure of a goat – succeeded. He was convicted and spent 18 days in jail.
Things got silly four years later, when arson reportedly dressed as Santa Claus and a gingerbread man shot a flaming arrow at the goat, causing it to burn to the ground.
As the years passed, additional protective measures were introduced.
In 2009, webcams were set up to detect suspected vandals trying to do something they should not do.
However, the authorities did not plan for an overload attack, which took the cameras offline, while the goat was burned down.
The goat survived in 2010, but reports surfaced of two men trying to bribe someone guarding the goat to let them steal it by helicopter. It did not work.
The next year, Gävlesboken was covered by a layer of protected ice, just so that it would melt and the goat would burn down.
The goat has now survived four years of trotting, including a pandemic last year.
While the world waits next inauguration on Sunday afternoon (14:00 British time) people on Twitter are already wondering if it will live for half a decade.
Some were optimistic and overjoyed that it returned, hoping it will survive again:
Others, meanwhile, did not hold back from wanting the goat to do so burn:
The goat guard has started …