In Scandinavia, a common Christmas symbol of pagan origin is the Yule goat, an ornament in the shape of a goat with horns, made out of straw and tied with plenty of red ribbon.
The Swedish town of Gävle has become world-famous for its gigantic version of the straw goat, placed every year in the town’s central Castle Square.
This tradition was started in 1966, and the 13-metre-high goat even made it into the Guinness Book of Records in 1985 (for world’s biggest straw goat, of course). The Gävle goat has a social media following, but its international fame also stems from a rather unfortunate reason—most years it ends up being destroyed by arsonists and vandals.
Attempts to protect the goat have involved fencing, dousing it in fire retardant, and even volunteer guardians working in shifts, all with mixed results.
This year was the goat’s 50th anniversary, but that did not help it survive. The magnificent straw creature—which takes some 1000 hours to build—went up in flames just hours after its annual inauguration on the first Sunday of Advent.