Will Sweden’s Christmas goat survive this year?

The straw goat beloved of arsonists in Gävle might stand a chance of survival this Christmas season thanks to its recent move from the city’s Slottstorget. Here’s a look at the history and stats of Gävlebocken and its chances for 2022.

Photo of Gävle's Christmas Goat
Mats Åstrand/TT Gävlebocken in its new temporary place at the inauguration at Rådhusesplanaden in Gävle.

The Gävle Goat is a giant version of the Swedish Yule Goat traditionally built with straw on a wooden frame and inaugurated on the first day of Advent in late November or early December each year. From that day till the end of Christmas time, it is the subject of a thrilling battle between the municipal authorities and arsonists to see if it can be saved from destruction.


Although it is technically illegal to burn or damage the goat in any way, since its inception in 1966, the goat has been burnt to the ground more times than it hasn’t, despite all kinds of security measures.

In its first few years, ironically, it was constructed by the Gävle fire department and in a poetic turn of events it was first set on fire by an anonymous arsonist the very first New Year’s Eve after it was erected. The perpetrator was later found and convicted of vandalism.

Traditionally, if the goat is burned down before 13 December, the feast day of Saint Lucia, it is rebuilt. The skeleton is then treated and repaired, and the goat is reconstructed on top of it using straw which the Goat Committee has pre-ordered.

The saga continues, with some people proud of the huge goat, and others bent on destroying it, while bets are made on when and how much damage it might sustain, and inventive methods are employed on how to protect or destroy it. 

In 2001, an American man visiting from Cleveland, Ohio was put in jail for 18 days and asked to pay a fine of 100,000 kronor after being accused of setting the goat on fire. The court confiscated his cigarette lighter with the argument that he clearly was not able to handle it. He stated in court that he was no “goat burner” and believed that he was taking part in a completely legal goat-burning tradition. After he was released from jail, he returned to the US without paying his fine.


On the Gävle goat’s 40th anniversary in the Christmas season of 2006, it was fireproofed with solvent bases and substances used on airplanes for maximum protection. The goat managed to remain undamaged that year.

Despite the authorities’ efforts, the goat has been damaged or destroyed a total of 38 times. On November 27th, 2016, an arsonist equipped with petrol burned it down just hours after its inauguration.

After a few flame-free years under 24-hour security, the goat was again burned on 17 December 2021. The fate of this year’s Gävlebock is yet to be decided.

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IN PICTURES: New citizens and royal glitz – How Sweden celebrated National Day

Sweden's National Day, observed on June 6th, is a special occasion that honours the nation's rich history and culture as well as the country's new citizens. This year marked the 500th anniversary of the founding of modern Sweden.

IN PICTURES: New citizens and royal glitz - How Sweden celebrated National Day

Sweden was in full-on celebratory mode as it marked National Day and the 500th anniversary since Gustav Vasa was elected King of Sweden in Strängnäs in 1523.

The official program of celebrations in Strängnäs ran roughly from 10 am to 1 pm.

READ MORE: Why does Sweden celebrate National Day on June 6th?

How the celebrations unfolded

The Swedish royal family were, as usual, prominent in the National Day celebrations, with Sweden’s King Carl XVI Gustaf, Queen Silvia, Crown Princess Victoria and Prince Daniel, Princ Carl Philip, Prince Oscar, and Princess Estelle all making an appearance on Tuesday.

The festivities began at the Strängnäs Cathedral in Strängnäs Municipality, Södermanland County, around 10:30 am, with the royal couple in attendance.

King Carl Gustaf - Queen Silvia - Strängnäs Cathedral

King Carl Gustaf and Queen Silvia photographed during a festive gathering in Strängnäs Cathedral on the 2023 National Day. Photo: Pontus Lundahl / TT

After the initial gathering at Strängnäs Cathedral, the royal couple made their way to the Källparken park. There, they inaugurated the impressive artwork “Sammanflätade” by Knutte Wester before proceeding to the stage in Västerviken.

King Carl Gustaf inaugurates artwork

King Carl Gustaf inaugurates the “Sammanflätade” artwork by Knutte Wester in Källparken. Photo by Pontus Lundahl / TT

King Carl Gustaf and Queen Silvia proceeded to walk from Källparken to Västerviken, greeting the festive crowd along the way.

Queen Silvia greets crowd

The royal couple strolled from Källparken to Västerviken, exchanging greetings with the gathered crowd en route. Photo by: Pontus Lundahl / TT

King Carl Gustaf

King Carl Gustaf, photographed cheering on the crowds between Källparken and Västerviken. Photo by: Pontus Lundahl / TT

King Carl Gustaf - Queen Silvia walking

Sweden’s King Carl Gustaf and Queen Silvia, walking to Västerviken during the National Day celebrations. Photo by: Pontus Lundahl / TT

The royal couple took centre stage at Västerviken and initiated the ceremonial celebrations.

King Carl Gustaf on stage

King Carl Gustaf on stage in Västerviken. Photo by: Pontus Lundahl / TT

Attendees then joined together in singing the King’s Song (Kungssången), the royal anthem.

The festivities continued with the Hemmavasan Strängnäs 10-kilometre race.

A special day for newly naturalised Swedish citizens

In recent years, Swedish National Day celebrations have also gained significance in facilitating the integration of immigrants, as newly naturalised Swedish citizens tend to participate in locally organized citizenship ceremonies on June 6th.

Speaking to the TT news agency previously Lund University ethnology professor Jonas Frykman said that this aspect of the celebrations was well-designed and greatly appreciated by many immigrants.

The inclusion of citizenship ceremonies has become a feature that plays a crucial role in welcoming and integrating newcomers into Swedish society, Frykman said at the time.