Lonely Planet Writer

Gävle’s famous Christmas goat under guard this festive season

Officials in the Swedish town of Gävle are going to extraordinary lengths to ensure their notorious festive monument, Gävlebocken (Gävle goat), remains standing for the duration of the Christmas season. The tradition of erecting a huge straw goat in Gävle’s Slottstorget at Christmas time began in 1966 but it has rarely made it to Christmas Day unscathed in its 51-year history.

The Gavle goat in 2015
Inauguration of the traditional Gävle goat on 29 November, 2015 in Gävle, Sweden. Photo by: MATS ASTRAND/TT/AFP/Getty Images

In an attempt to protect the goat from vandals this year, Gävle municipality has employed two security guards, built a double fence around it and has installed a live ‘goat cam’ so members of the public can also keep watch.

The inauguration ceremony for 2017’s monument took place on 4 December and passed without incident but, if history is anything to go by, many people will be wondering how long the 13-metre-high structure will last – the goat has only stayed standing for the whole season on 14 occasions.

While most incarnations of Gävlebocken have fallen victim to arsonists, one vandal tried to destroy it by ramming it with a Volvo, and the most elaborate sabotage plot involved plans to use a helicopter to steal it and take it to Stockholm.

The remains of the Gavle Goat after the festivities in 2016
The charred remains of the Gävle goat in 2016. Photo by PERNILLA WAHLMAN/AFP/ Getty Images

The persistent and sometimes comical nature of the dastardly plans to wreck Gävlebocken has meant the goat’s story has become fabled around the world but a spokesperson for the municipality, Maria Wallberg, explained to news agency TT why the publicity isn’t such a boon for the city. “The fires are not that good for Gävle because many people come here just to see the goat,” she said. “There are a lot of cancellations once it burns.”

Gävlebocken is a giant version of the traditional Nordic Yule Goat, an ornament usually made of straw and tied with red ribbon, which is hung on Christmas trees.