Sweden's straw goat famed for arson attacks has returned – and people are already wondering if it'll survive

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Sweden’s straw goat famed for arson attacks has returned – and people are already wondering if it’ll survive
© Mats Astrand/TT/AFP via Getty Images Gavle Goat Gavlesbocken

T’is the season to be jolly or whatever, but for one city in Sweden, it may well be the season where someone risks a criminal record to burn down a giant straw goat.

Yes, really.

Every year in Gävle, a cute straw goat – known as the Gävle goat or Gävlebocken in Swedish – is erected in Castle Square as part of the area’s Christmas celebrations. This year’s ‘inauguration’ takes place on Sunday.

It all sounds innocent enough, and that alone wouldn’t be enough for us to report on, but since it became a tradition in 1966, the goat has only survived the festive season on 18 occasions.

For all the other years the goat has been assembled in Gävle, it has been destroyed – more specifically, it’s been burnt down by members of the public who know straw is particularly flammable.

Though this is a goat, not Guy Fawkes. And before we get a letter in the post from some angry Swedish lawyers, we should probably mention that for those who build the goat every year, burning it down is something which they really do not want.

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It’s also Very Much Illegal.

Yet that hasn’t stopped people, even when they faced growing challenges from people who very much did not want their goat turned to ash – who can blame them?

In 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 drunk adolescents burned it down. When local tradesmen weren’t so keen on their hard work being destroyed in 1971, the Natural Science Society of Vasaskolan took over goat-building duties, according to VisitGävle.se. Their goat burned down too.

In 1972, it wasn’t even burned down. It imploded.

Some years the fate of the goat was unexplained, such as in 1973, 1975 and 1977.

In a shock twist, the goat didn’t burn down in 1976 – it was hit by a car instead.

Two years people got a little ahead of themselves, burning down the goat in 1979 and 1989 ahead of it being assembled in Gävle.

The goat even made the Guinness Book of Records in 1985 when it was 12.5 metres tall, before, of course, it was burned down.

Gävlesboken received a bit of an upgrade in 1987 when he was heavily fireproofed by the city.

It didn’t stop it from burning down, though.

A year on, things got worse: you could actually place a bet in Britain as to whether you thought the goat would survive or not – that year, miraculously, it did.

When the world entered the 90s, a commercial sleigh was illegally constructed next to the goat. While a slightly irritating installation, it didn’t detract from the fact that someone still managed to successfully set the goat alight that year, 1991.

Some years, it wasn’t even the fault of humans that the goat was destroyed. A blizzard killed it off in 1998.

In 2001, the burning went international when a 51-year-old American tourist – thinking 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 arsonists reportedly dressed as Santa Claus and a gingerbread man fired a flaming arrow at the goat, causing it to burn to the ground.

As the years went on, further protective measures were introduced.

2009 saw webcams put in place to spot any suspected vandals attempting to do something they shouldn’t be doing.

The authorities didn’t plan for a denial of service attack, however, which took the cameras offline, while the goat was burned down.

The goat survived in 2010, but reports surfaced of two men attempting to bribe someone guarding the goat to allow them to steal it by helicopter. It didn’t work.

The next year, Gävlesboken was covered in a layer of protected ice, only for that to melt and for the goat to be burned down.

Now, the goat has survived four years on the trot, including a pandemic last year.

While the world awaits the next inauguration on Sunday afternoon (2pm UK time), people on Twitter are already wondering if it’ll live for half a decade.

Some were optimistic and overjoyed at its return, hopeful it’ll survive once more:

Heck yea you got this goat!

— 🔥 Khaul 🔥 (@LadyKalma) November 28, 2021

can we get 5 years in a row?!

— BC (@Brain_Cleaner) November 28, 2021

Here’s to a long life Gävlebocken!

— Ratz (@angrywoodlouse) November 28, 2021

This is the fifth year

Can this Survive

record continue to be maintained?

— 千羽月痕 (@aa880230) November 28, 2021

Others, meanwhile, didn’t hold back in their desire for the goat to burn:


— Will (@The_Whaw) November 28, 2021


— David Crunelle (@davidcrunelle) November 28, 2021

Like a star, you say? pic.twitter.com/txaKDFbyyW

— Topher is taking Perler commissions! 👾 (@TopherXPwns) November 28, 2021


— Bee (@bie_fh) November 28, 2021


— Binary-Bluejay (@BinaryBluejay) November 28, 2021

Burn it Down! Burn it Down! pic.twitter.com/6X30wP7Vk9

— FC Hordz (@FC_Hordz) November 28, 2021

Please burn this year. We need the sacrifice. Just look at the most recent years when #Gävlebocken didn’t burn. https://t.co/bNIv98FoU5

— Tomb Svalborg🦇 (@tombness) November 28, 2021

The goat watch has begun…

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