In 1966 a group of businessmen from Gävle, Sweden contrived a fool-proof means of attracting renown and tourism to their community; to build the largest straw Yule Goat in the world. The Southern Merchants, as they called themselves, constructed a goat that stood 13 metres tall by 7 metres long (43x24 feet) weighing 3 tonnes. On New Years Eve some person or persons unknown came to the logical conclusion that the thing needed to be burned to the ground.
And with that two great traditions were born; the construction of a gigantic straw goat and the struggles to either burn it down or keep it from burning down (depending on your point of view). Over nearly the next half century the Gävle Goat would undergo several changes, as in 1971 the Southern Merchants decided to stop wasting money on a goat that would burn down and the Natural Science Club from the School of Vasa took up the task until the Merchants got back into the game in 1986. Ever since the first and only twentieth anniversary of the goat's construction, there has been two built; one by the Southern Merchants the other by the Natural Science Club. The goat has undergone "fireproofing" with mixed results, has been guarded by a range of people and technologies, and all the while has become bigger and bigger. But despite all of this, statistics reveal that it has survived only 43 percent of the time.
Selected Security Measures Employed
As noted the people of Gävle have employed a number of measures to protect their famous goat. Here are a few notable examples;
Starting in 1968, the goat builders started encasing the structure in chicken wire to keep people out of the goat. This decision was prompted by area children hiding inside the legs while playing hide-and-seek, and rumours of a couple "consummating their love" inside it.
Starting in 1979 the goat has sometimes been "fireproofed" with a range of different products, but is often burned down regardless. A successful fireproofing solution seems to have been found, but isn't always used because it discolours the goat.
Throughout the history of the Gävle Goat, volunteers have stood watch to keep the goat alive, again with mixed success. Members of the Gävle I 14 Infantry Regiment were among those who stood guard from 1985 to 1991, until the garrison was shut down (presumably due to their poor record at keeping the goat unburnt).
In 1996 the goat was watched over by webcams, but only after the invention of the internet. They have proved susceptible to computer hackers, who then burn the goat while the cameras are down.
Two drunken teenagers are arrested after burning down the goat in a record 6 hours after its construction.
The goat collapses due to sabotage.
The goat is run over by a car.
The goat is burnt before it could be erected (as would happen a decade later in 1989). A replacement goat is kicked to pieces.
Thanks to enterprising British Bookmakers, it becomes possible to bet money on the fate of the Yule Goat. The goat survives the winter.
During a severe blizzard, the volunteers guarding the goat retreat into a nearby café for a break and some coffee, assuming that no one could possibly start a fire in the raging storm. They are wrong, and the goat burns.
An American is arrested after the goat is burnt on 23 December. Lawrence Jones, a 51-year old native of Cleveland, Ohio, fails to convince the locals that he had no idea that burning their straw goat was illegal and that he assumed it was a local tradition. They charge him 100,000 Swedish Kronors and confiscate his lighter due to his inability to use it responsibly. After being released from prison, he fled the country without paying the fine, and to this day the 100,000 Kronors remain unpaid.
The Southern Merchants' goat was set aflame on 15 December by a pair of individuals reportedly dressed in a Santa Claus and Gingerbread Man costumes, who started the blaze by using a shooting a flaming arrow. They remain at large.
The Southern Merchants' goat was burned down while the Natural Science Club's was stolen in the back of a pickup truck. Officials have not yet commented on the innocence of Andy Zaltzman in the affaire, but it appears that he has been removed from the short list of candidates to do the opening and closing ceremonies of the London Olympics in 2012.
There have been a number of different people that have been linked to the burning of the Gävle Goat over the year, and here are a few of them;
Youths + Alcohol + Gigantic Straw Yule Goat = Fire
Is this really that surprising to anyone?
Individuals angry at Sweden and their colossal goats for a number of reasons seem to find their way to Gävle with lighters, which for Norwegiens is entirely standard, and Americans taking it upon themselves to raise the opinion of the USA by pretending to misunderstand local customs and practices, also entirely standard behavior for Americans.
The remnants of this ancient sect of Norse pagans are known for their worship of the god Ullr. While their cultural traditions have largely disappeared as they have assimilated into contemporary society, which has been a relief for Northern Europeans when it comes to wide scale looting and pillaging from longboats, they seem to have retained their practice of animal sacrifices to Ullr. On the final day of the year, the Ullrites come together to sacrifice the community's largest sheep, ram, goat, or, on at least two occasions, giraffe. They would then burn the carcass to ensure Ullr’s pleasure, which, according to the ancient texts would bring them "glory."
While no Ullirte has even been documented visiting Gävle, it seem likely that they are involved somehow. If not directly, then by their propagandizing efforts urging their peers to burn livestock for Ullr.
Santa and the Gingerbread Man
After the incident of 2005 (see above), the authorities in Sweden have issued a "shoot on sight" order to all law enforcement agents regarding Santa Claus and/or the Gingerbread Man within a 25 kilometer radius of Gävle. This seems to have succeeded at keeping the miscreants from again torching the Yule Goat, but has led to sad Christmas for the many children of Gävle, who have waited in vain for presents from the jolly fellow for five long years. Despite the explanations that Santa doesn’t actually exist, the youths remain convinced of Santa’s innocence in the ordeal and these days it is not uncommon to see "The Day of Saint Nicholas is Coming! Woe On To Ye Unbelievers!" scrawled cynically in crayon on walls throughout the town.
As has been discussed above, Andy Zaltzman has yet to be cleared of any involvement in the 2009 burning of the Gävle Goat. If indeed he was truely not responsible, it will only have been for a lack of opportunity.
Please note that unlike the rest of the Bugle Wiki, the contents of the page above is completely true... except for the bit about Ullrites and vengeful children, which is only probably true. For more information please refer to the Wikipedia page on the subject.