Christmas goat sacrificed already

As is an unofficial Christmas tradition, a 13-metre straw goat has already succumbed to arsonists in an eastern Swedish town.

The Gävlebocken, which has been erected in Gävle’s main square every festive season since 1966, went up in flames before December even began this year, leaving only its metal skeleton behind.

The beleaguered billy splits loyalties in the community each year, with one side trying desperately to protect it while the other goes to extreme measures to see it meet its maker. Previous sabotage attempts have included a helicopter heist and the bribing of security guards, and residents have been able to make bets on the creature’s precarious lifespan since 1988.

This year, pro-goat groups attempted to save it from its usual fate by dousing it with water in the hope that it would freeze and therefore be impossible to set alight. The efforts were thwarted, however, by the unusually warm temperatures, and nothing was left of the harassed animal when emergency services arrived at the scene just five minutes after the first flames were reported.

At least 28 of the 45 effigies erected in the square have gone the same way, with the torchings making the Guinness Book of Records and headlines across the world. An American tourist was jailed for a month and fined SEK 100,000 (EUR 10,988) in 2001 for partaking in what he thought was a perfectly legal tradition.