Celebrate the Holidays in Sweden with…Arson?
In the interests of full disclosure, I must tell you that I am married to a woman of Swedish decent (how did I find someone like that in Rockford?). Around holiday time, I've come to expect things like krup kakar, lutefisk, vörtbröd, and, if I play my cards right, glögg. At no time, however, in 25 years of marriage, has she suggested we set fire to a goat.
Which makes me doubt her Swedish authenticity. Based upon what I've been reading and seeing over the last few days, it seems in 1966 the Swedes started developing a strange, intriguing holiday tradition in Slottstorget in central Gävle. They construct and erect a giant straw goat, and then...well, someone burns it to the ground.
Some background from MentalFloss:
The first Gävle Goat was put up on December 1, 1966. Financed by a local entrepreneur, the magnificent beast stood 23 feet in length and over four stories tall. But this colossus of holiday cheer went up in smoke that New Year’s Eve at the hands of a nearby pyromaniac. Luckily, the goat was insured and the perpetrator charged with vandalism. Since then, a new model is built from hay (almost) every year in a tradition that ranks among the country’s most famous. Unfortunately—as the good people of Gävle know all too well—no goat is hooligan-proof. Last year’s specimen, for example, lasted only until December 12th before being burned to a crisp. But petty arson is hardly the worst fate that can befall a Gävle goat. Other grisly demises include getting kicked to pieces and being hit by a car. To date, a grand total of 36 have been destroyed. Things got even weirder in 2010, when a pair of schemers planned to kidnap the goat and transport it to Stockholm via helicopter only to have the guard on duty reject their bribe of 50,000 kronor ($7350 USD).
I just finished reading another piece on the ill-fated goat that described how a few years ago, with a crowd of people around (including police), some dude just walked up to the goat and set it on fire. He was arrested on the spot. He was confused by the arrest, saying that he thought it was a competition, and that the first person to torch the goat was the winner. He was wrong.
So, Swedes of Rockford, what do you think? Time to start building our own goat?
Here's a time-lapse of what happened Monday night in Sweden: