The 2012 Gävle goat on fire. 
 
It’s an odd tradition that adds a dose of suspense to the holiday season. Every year, a giant straw goat is erected in the town of Gävle, Sweden, and every year, arsonists try to burn it down. A local resident explains that this delights many townspeople.
 
The tradition began in 1966, when the first Christmas goat was built in downtown Gävle to attract shoppers. On New Year’s Eve, a pyromaniac set it alight, and was later caught. Since then, the goat has been burnt down 26 times; more often than not, the perpetrators are never identified. This year, though firemen had tried to fireproof the goat by pouring water all over the straw, which met its untimely fate on December 13. A surveillance camera filmed the goat going up in flames.
 
 
In the video, assailants appear to inject something into the goat before it bursts into flames. Past attackers have also tried alternative means of destroying the goat, such as driving a car into it and even planning to kidnap it by helicopter.

“If the goat doesn’t burn, Santa will give all his presents to Finland”

Alex Lindström lives in Sandviken, a city just outside of Gävle. He attends high school in Gävle.
 
It’s become a big game to see who has the guts to destroy the goat. And most people in Gävle think it’s kind of fun to bet on when the goat is going to burn down. Some even bet money on it, through betting websites. Rumour has it that those who burn the goat down are heavy betters!
 
Most people are disappointed on the rare years the goat doesn’t burn. There are sayings here about the Gävle goat: “You know it’s Christmas when the goat has burnt down” and “If the goat doesn’t burn, Santa will give all his presents to Finland.”
 
Personally, I think the people who build it must secretly want it to burn down. There’s a tiny little fence around it that anyone can climb over. Sometimes, people volunteer to guard it, but even then, others find ways to burn it down – one year, someone shot a flaming arrow at it.
 
“If people stopped burning the goat, nobody would care
that much about it”
 
This year, two young men who claimed they burnt the goat got tattoos of the goat and the date it burnt on their ankles, then posted photos of their tattoos on a web forum thread dedicated to the goat. The police told the Swedish press that while this was certainly suspicious, it was not enough to prove guilt.
 
 
People who burn down the goat rarely get caught. One time, an American tourist was arrested after setting it on fire and given a big fine, but he went back to the United States and never paid it.
 
My opinion is that this is a fun tradition, and it’s good publicity for the city. If people stopped burning it, nobody would care that much about it.