Swedes guard Christmas goat from vandals
By MATTIAS KAREN, Associated Press Writer
Sun Dec 3, 12:35 PM ET
The 43-foot-high goat — a centuries-old yule symbol that preceded Santa Claus as the bringer of gifts to Swedish homes — has been burned down 22 times since it was first set up in
But for its 40th anniversary Sunday, officials think they have finally outsmarted the resourceful vandals by dousing the battered ram with flame-resistant chemicals normally used on airplanes.
"It is impossible to burn it to the ground this year, although you might be able to singe its paws," said Anna Ostman, a spokeswoman for the committee in charge of building the goat. "After 40 years, we think we finally found the solution."
The company providing the fireproof treatment is so sure of its resilience that its spokesman Freddy Klassmo told newspaper Aftonbladet that "not even napalm can set fire to the goat now."
For those who want to follow its fate, a 24-hour Web cam has been set up to film the straw goat where it stands on the central square in Gavle, 90 miles north of Stockholm. However, the security guards that have watched over previous versions have been called off, Ostman said.
"We can sleep very soundly at night now," she said. "The goat can too."
While the origins of the Christmas goat are unclear, the symbol is believed to date back to Norse mythology and the two goats that drew the carriage of Thor, the god of thunder.
Many Swedes place a small straw goat underneath their Christmas tree, or hang miniature versions on the branches.
Since 1966, just 10 of
The vandals are seldom caught, but the 2001 culprit — 51-year-old American Lawrence Jones — was convicted and spent 18 days in jail.
The 2005 vandals — who witnesses said were dressed up as Santa Claus and the Gingerbread Man — remain at large. The pair fired flaming arrows at the goat, reducing it to its steel skeleton.