04/03/2015

Getting the Goat!



The Chinese Year of the Goat may only come round every so often but in one Swedish town it is every year!
You know how at Christmas we do all those Victorian things that have become traditional? Christmas trees, decorations and such like. Well in the Swedish town of Gavle they build a wooden goat for Advent.  Yes, they do.  This is that goat…
Quite obviously a goat.


This is not as random as it seems, as there is a traditional Swedish Yule Goat anyway though even that sounds a bit silly. This particular version is on a larger than real goat scale and is built from straw in the town centre taking a couple of days to construct. However its presence has inspired an even more unusual tradition whereby people attempt to destroy the goat in various ways.
It was back in 1966 that advertising consultant Stig Gavelin dreamt up the idea and it was left somewhat bizarrely with the town’s fire department to oversee. Perhaps that’s why people feel inclined to set fire to it. The first goat was 43 feet or 7 metres tall, 23 feet long and weighed 3 tonnes and it lasted until New Years Eve before it was torched by one Hofors Gastikland who was arrested and forced to build straw goats for the next year. Perhaps. Thing is that Hofors’ act started a tradition whereby people would try and destroy the goat because like climbers and Mount Everest, it was there.
Amongst the highlights of this regular wooden goat worrying time are -
Years when the goat lasted for only a short time include 1970 (six hours), 1979, 1989 (burned down before it was even finished), 1992 (8 days), 1999 (2 hours- what is it about the last year of the decade?!) 2012 (10 days)
Over the years as well as being burned down the poor goat has been toppled over, hit by a car, bombarded by fireworks and kicked to pieces!
Assailants were not always caught in particular the people who attacked it one year disguised as Santa Claus and a Gingerbread Man. Obviously nobody saw anything.
The most ambitious plan said to have been hatched came about in 2010 and involved kidnapping the goat using a helicopter and flying it off to Stockholm. Bit tricky to hide though, I’d have thought.
Increasingly elaborate ideas have been employed to save the goat including being guarded by soldiers, having a back- up goat ready or making the goat from fireproof material. One year however the Goat Committee (oh yes, of course there’s a Goat Committee) complained that the fire repellent spoiled the look of the goat. As a defence measure fire repellent didn’t always work anyway- in 2013 despite being coated in it the goat was burned down after 21 days.
Amongst those arrested for offences against the giant goat was a US tourist called Lawrence Jones who was convicted and fined in 2001 but never paid the fine. His statement “I’m no goat burner” has probably never been uttered in a court outside Sweden.
You’ll be pleased to know last year’s goat survived and was used last month in China to help celebrate the Year of the Goat. Huzzah.



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