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Julbocken: the Swedish Tradition that Usually Goes up in Flames

Runway ready! How do I look?” tweets Gävlebocken, the official social media account of Sweden’s famous Christmas goat. Indeed, he’s not only famous in Sweden: according to the Guinness Book of Records, Gävle’s Julbocken is the world’s largest Yule Goat. In a tradition dating back to 1966, Gävle city displays the 42 ft goat every December, and Swedes hope that he will survive the season. However, the odds haven’t always favoured the goat, which has been subject to arson attacks 30 times over 54 years.

The Battle to Protect Julbocken

Although setting fire to Julbocken is illegal, people try (and some succeed) to turn him into a burning effigy. In fact one year, an American tourist torched the goat, claiming that he thought he was partaking in a genuine Swedish tradition. Another year, Julbocken met his untimely demise at the flaming end of a burning arrow shot by a vandal in a gingerbread man costume. Over the years, he has also been damaged by a speeding car, and other acts of vandalism.

In order to protect the goat, security increases every year. Now, he has two fences, a fleet of taxi drivers, 24-hour CCTV, and security guards keeping a watchful eye over him.   The measures are effective as the large goat has survived the last three years. Additionally, Julbocken has a baby brother, a smaller goat built by students at a local school. Sadly, he is under less protection than the larger goat, and so usually gets torched before Christmas – a sacrificial goat, as it were.

Gävle julbocken

Sweden’s Social Media Star

Gävlebocken is so popular that he has his own Twitter and Instagram account, revealing his great sense of humour. In 2018, he tweeted after a drunken night-time visitor broke into his pen to go to the toilet. Of course, Gävlebocken, like most Swedes, is bilingual and tweets in English for the benefit of his international followers.

With visitors coming from around the world, many people hope that the increased security will hold up again this season. Although there will be fewer visitors, fans can follow the live cam and hope that he survives the fourth winter in a row.

Good luck, Julbocken!

You can read more about Gävlebocken here. If you liked this post, please share!

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  1. I enjoyed reading this so much. I hope you give us an update as to his fate!

  2. says:

    This Jule goat looks really impressive! I understand this only Swedish tradition to have them. Am I right? I hope its fate will be not bad.

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