Swedes guard Christmas goat from vandals
By MATTIAS KAREN, Associated Press Writer
Sun Dec 3, 12:35 PM ET
STOCKHOLM, Sweden - For 40 years it has been torched, vandalized, had
its legs cut off and even been run over by a car. But officials in
the Swedish city of Gavle are guaranteeing that this year's giant
straw Christmas goat - the victim of Sweden's most violent yule
tradition - will survive unscathed.
The 43-foot-high goat - a centuries-old yule symbol that preceded
Santa Claus as the bringer of gifts to Swedish homes - has been
burned down 22 times since it was first set up in Gavle's square on
Dec. 3, 1966.
But for its 40th anniversary Sunday, officials think they have
finally outsmarted the resourceful vandals by dousing the battered
ram with flame-resistant chemicals normally used on airplanes.
"It is impossible to burn it to the ground this year, although you
might be able to singe its paws," said Anna Ostman, a spokeswoman for
the committee in charge of building the goat. "After 40 years, we
think we finally found the solution."
The company providing the fireproof treatment is so sure of its
resilience that its spokesman Freddy Klassmo told newspaper
Aftonbladet that "not even napalm can set fire to the goat now."
For those who want to follow its fate, a 24-hour Web cam has been set
up to film the straw goat where it stands on the central square in
Gavle, 90 miles north of Stockholm. However, the security guards that
have watched over previous versions have been called off, Ostman said.
"We can sleep very soundly at night now," she said. "The goat can too."
While the origins of the Christmas goat are unclear, the symbol is
believed to date back to Norse mythology and the two goats that drew
the carriage of Thor, the god of thunder.
Many Swedes place a small straw goat underneath their Christmas tree,
or hang miniature versions on the branches.
Since 1966, just 10 of Gavle's giant goats have survived beyond
Christmas Day. Aside from being burned, several were beaten down and
the 1976 goat was hit by a car.
The vandals are seldom caught, but the 2001 culprit - 51-year-old
American Lawrence Jones - was convicted and spent 18 days in jail.
The 2005 vandals - who witnesses said were dressed up as Santa Claus
and the Gingerbread Man - remain at large. The pair fired flaming
arrows at the goat, reducing it to its steel skeleton.
Then, for extra fun, read the wikipedia entry , which includes the wonderous phrase "a frenzy of copycat goat-burning" and a table of the survival rates and methods of destruction of goats built by the 2 competing goat-building organizations.