The Burning of the Gävle Goat: The Best Christmas Story You’ve Never Heard of

The Gävle Goat

Let’s be honest, a lot of Christmas traditions are mid. Trying to untangle $5000 worth of LED lights? Bad vibes. Lying to children about a magical Santa-powered surveillance state? Horrifying. Demolishing a box of pavlova and a tray of sticky date pudding? Well, that one’s actually alright.

However, there’s a single Christmas tradition that makes the whole season worth it. In the Swedish city of Gävle, a Yule Goat made of straw is erected for all to enjoy. This Yule Goat’s name is the Gävle Goat.

However, we gotten to the good part yet. In 1966, the first year it was created, someone burnt this buck to the ground. Since then, it has been a tradition for some of the citizens of Sweden to attempt to destroy this Yule Goat, much to the chagrin of the authorities.

Want to know the entire history of this cat-and-mouse game? Then let’s jump into the deets.


After two years of being untouched, the goat was burnt on New Year’s Eve. What a way to end the year. 


In 1970, the Gävle Goat was torched within six hours of being staged. It was then replaced by a goat made out of reeds.


In 1971, the makers of the previous goats were sick of their goats getting burnt, so they quit. This resulted in the Natural Science Society of Vasaskolan deciding to pick up the mantle and make a smaller goat. This smaller guy was then smashed to bits.


In 1972, a person sabotaged the creation of this year’s Yule Goat. They somehow made the goat implode. To this day, the identity of this individual is a mystery. 


In 1973, a dude stole the goat and put it in his backyard. He was then arrested and charged with aggravated robbery. The man was then sentenced to spend two years in prison


In 1974, the Gävle Goat had another classic torching.


In 1975, this buck collapsed under its own weight.  


To switch things up, 1976 was the first year the Yule Goat was destroyed by a car crash. 


In 1977, the goat was destroyed. Unfortunately, how it was defeated wasn’t recorded and is now a secret lost to time.   


To commemorate this year, the goat received its second smashing.


In 1979, the Gävle Goat was burnt down before it was even completed. However, another goat was made and then covered in a fire-retardant liquid. This goat was later smashed. 


In 1980, our boy was burned on Christmas Eve. 


Another burning, hun. 


In 1983, the legs of the buck were destroyed. 


He was burnt again, classic. 


In 1985, the Gävle Goat entered the Guinness Book of World Records for being the largest measured Yule Goat ever. It was a whopping 12.5 metres tall. It was also crisped in January.


For some reason, 1986 was the first year two goats were constructed. The bigger of the two goats was torched the night before Christmas Eve.


In 1987, the Yule Goat was heavily drenched in a fire-retardant liquid. Did this help? No. It was burnt one week before Christmas kicked off. 


In 1989, the buck was burnt down before it was finished being built. The public then raised money for the construction of a new goat. He too was torched. 

A third goat was then made. This one then starred in the Swedish dramedy Black Jack. However, the Gävle Goat didn’t win an Oscar, and neither did his film.


Is there any better Christmas smell than the burning of a Yule Goat? ‘Cause that was the sweet scent which wafted over 1991’s Gävle.


Ah, a classic burn-the first-goat-and-then-burn-the-second-one play. The arsonist behind these fires was arrested. 


In 1995, the Gävle Goat was burned down. However, this time, by a Norwegian. A replacement buck was then built. 


Someone burnt this beautiful boy down during a major snowstorm. The gall!


Pals, 1999’s goat only lasted a few hours before a bonfire burnt him down. Another goat was then forged out of straw.


Happy New Year, Gävle Goat! Oops, cancel that. You were blazed a few days beforehand.


In 2001, Lawrence Jones, a photographer and writer from the United State, burned down the buck. Jones claimed it was an accident, claiming that he only wanted to light a single piece of straw. 

The citizens of Gävle were frustrated at Jones, as they wanted to be the ones to torch the Yule Goat. So they chased him down, and he was arrested. 

It’s worth noting that Jones wasn’t sentenced to any years in jail. 

During Jones’ trial, the judge was alleged to have said, “The truth is that the buck is built to be burned. Mr Jones, you are free, but we will not return your lighter.”


In 2003, the goat was burned down and replaced. Who would have thought?


Three days before Christmas, this boy succumbed to man’s flames. 


This year, the buck was torched by two individuals, one dressed as Santa Claus and one dressed as gingerbread. This pair was never caught. 


In 2008, the goat was burnt once again. 

In response to this situation, a goat committee spokesperson, Anna Ostman said, “It was set on fire early in the day, it’s very sad. People from 105 countries have followed the goat via the webcams and many become really sad when they learn that he’s burned down. We have heard from a lot of people, including the United States.”


The 2009 Gävle Goat wasn’t meant to be and was slayed. 

This time, Ostman said, “We had really hoped that he would survive Christmas and New Year’s.”


“Only the skeleton is left” — Sven-Erik Hammar, Gävle Police Officer


In 2012, our boy went up in smoke. 

This same year, Eje Berglund, the Chairman of the Gävle Goat project, was asked if his group had ever considered not making these bucks.

In response, Berglund said, “We have discussed it, but we still think it’s worth it, because it’s still a very good trademark for the town. It’s one of Sweden’s most famous trademarks.”


On November 30, the Gävle Tourist Office said, “We’ve made it from material that’s a little stronger this year, so it should be much harder to burn down.”

On December 21, the goat burnt down.


Rest in peace, my Yule Goat. Rest in peace.


Happy 50th birthday, Gävle Goat! Oh wait, you were set ablaze only a few hours into your launch party.


“Nooo,” said the Gävle Goat on Twitter. “It’s literally the worst feeling to go down in flames.”

This year, the person behind the attack was caught and arrested. He was sentenced to six months in prison and fined SEK 100,000, which in Australia, is around $14,500. 


As of December 22, the Gävle Goat has not been burnt to the ground. However, in a shocking twist, this monument has instead been attacked by a bunch of birds. That’s right, Swedish jackdaws have been eating this buck.

According to The Local, an unusually wet winter has resulted in the goat’s straw containing an atypical amount of grain. And jackdaws love grain, which brings us to Gävle’s current predicament.

In a statement, the Gävle Goat’s Spokesperson, Anna-Karin Niemann, noted that she’s very surprised at the jackdaws’ destructive behaviour.

“We have tried to look in the archive and have spoken to people who have worked for a long time in constructing the Gävlebocken,” Niemann said. “But none of them remember this happening before.”

If the Gävle Goat goes down in flames, may the jackdaws survive. Good luck.

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