Sweden’s Gävle Christmas goat ready to return for festive season

Sweden's straw yule goat Gävlebocken, whose biggest claim to fame is its tendency to get burned down every year, is all set for its annual return on Sunday.

Sweden's Gävle Christmas goat ready to return for festive season
The ill-fated 2016 Gävlebocken. Photo: Pernilla Wahlman/TT

Every year, the Christmas goat (Gävlebocken) in the Slottstorget square in Gävle, central Sweden, attracts a media storm with locals dreaming up new ways to protect the arson-prone 13-metre-high creation.

Despite their efforts, including in some years spraying the goat in anti-flammable liquid, the goat usually goes up in flames long before Swedes have opened their Christmas presents.

Last year, the goat surprisingly made it to Boxing Day intact, to the delight of organisers, who were reported to have put a “secret” plan into effect to protect it.

In 2016 it was less fortunate, going down in flames mere hours after its inauguration.

READ ALSO: 'Memorial' to be held for Sweden's giant yule goat

“Many people are invested” in the straw goat in Gävle, Maria Wallberg of the town’s municipality told TT.

The central Swedish town is naturally proud of its luckless Christmas decoration, despite the fact it has burned town 29 times during its 50-year history.

Thousands of people are expect to attend the unveiling of the goat on Sunday, with the ceremony to be presented by Swedish comedian Clara Henry.

“It means an incredible amount that the city has such a strong symbol which is known all over the world,” Wallberg said.

Security around the giant goat is expected to be high, both during its inauguration day and throughout December. Security guards and cameras will both be deployed to keep an eye on it behind its fencing, while a taxi rank has been moved to the square to increase the presence of people in the area.

“For security reasons, we can’t go into too much detail,” Wallberg said of any further precautions.

Historical precedent is against Gävlebocken. In its first year, 1966, it burned down on New Year’s Eve and it has only made it through the entire month on 15 occasions. It has been burned, stolen and vandalised. In 1976, someone drove a stock car into it.

Orörd = undamaged; uppeldad = burned down; annan skada = otherwise damaged; oklart öde = fate unknown. Graphic: TT

“An attack early in the season would mean cancellations at hotels and restaurants. So it is incredibly important for Gävle, Gävle’s businesses and for everyone who wants to visit the goat that it is still standing at New Year,” Wallberg said.

READ ALSO: Five weirdest attacks on Gävle's arson-prone Christmas goat

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Sweden’s Christmas goat beats the arsonists for 19th time

The giant straw Christmas goat in the city of Gävle, which is every year the subject of a battle by the authorities to prevent it being burnt down by arsonists, has survived for the 19th time in its 56-year history.

Sweden’s Christmas goat beats the arsonists for 19th time

The 13-metre high goat, called Gävlebocken, had been temporarily moved this year from Slottstorget, or “castle square”, to the Rådhusesplanaden, or “town hall esplanade”, a change goat watchers believed could give the authorities an advantage.

The goat’s own Twitter account announced its victory in a tweet issued on Christmas Day.

“I made it. Merry Christmas,” it posted in English.

In its 56 years, the goat has been burned down 30 times and damaged in other ways seven times.


After 2016, when it was burned down within hours of being inaugurated, it remained intact until 2020, coming close to beating its four-year survival record. 

Last year, though, the goat was burnt down by a 40-year-old from Kalmar, who was later jailed for six months for aggravated vandalism and forced to pay a fine of 109,000 kronor, a deterrent that may also have increased the odds of the goat’s survival this year. 

According to the Swedish betting site Bettingsidor, it has been illegal to give odds on the goat’s survival since a new Swedish gambling license came into force in 2019. 

When The Local’s journalist, Becky Waterton, asked on Twitter whether readers thought the goat would survive this year, 61.3 percent thought it would perish before Christmas Eve.