Sweden has the odd tradition of the Yule Goat — a giant, festively decorated goat made of straw that is erected outside of an Ikea store in the city of Gavle. For the 35th time since 1966 it was set on fire and destroyed this week.
This is how Swedes celebrate Christmas, folks. They build the goat in hopes that it will survive until New Year’s Eve but rarely does the poor thing survive.
The goat’s history of early demise is legendary. Over the years, the goat has been run over by a souped-up Volvo, attacked by a team of Santas and Gingerbread men wielding bows and arrows, and burned down by a gullible American tourist who had been convinced by his Swedish hosts that doing so was perfectly legal. He served ten days in prison.
The goat is an ancient Scandinavian Yuletide tradition that preceded Santa Claus as the bringer of gifts. The Swedish Santa was drawn in his sleigh by two goats named Gnasher and Thrasher — not reindeer.
In the late 1960s a local marketer came up with the idea of a goat and had it built. That was also the year someone decided a giant pile of straw was too much of a target and took it down in a momentary blaze of Yule goat glory.
Since that time city officials — who are evidently serious about this whole thing — have done battle with local vandals who see the goat and all of the protective laws, regulations, lights and security as a challenge. The tradition has now become not if but when a goat will be destroyed. The goat, by the way, is very popular and has more than 9000 followers on Twitter.
K. Klark Klaus is a former professor of theology and, as an academic, abhors the titles of "writer" and "reporter". As a New Yorker he was prominent on his essays on religion for many decades before retiring with his wife to Vermont, where he raises reindeer and writes, er, opines for Christmas Weekly.