December 01: The Great Goat

2016/12/01 § Leave a comment

goat fireworks

On this day in 1966 the first Gävle goat was inaugurated.

The great goat is part of a long proud (well maybe not proud) heritage of zoomorphic structures of architectural scale, including late nineteenth-century wood and tin elephants  and the Long Island duck that Robert Venturi made so (in-)famous.  Straw goats appear all over Sweden at Christmastime (related to their stories of Santa riding on a goat through fields of lingonberries to deliver IKEA all-purpose wrench-screw tools to children).  Sometime in the 1960s townsfolk of Gävle decided to erect the biggest one, something like forty feet tall (that’s about 120 kanelbullar tall, in Swede measure), to welcome the Yule season.

Sadly, the tradition of those original Peace Love and Understanding Hippie Goats has become the target of hijinks and vandalism in more recent, cynical days.  (Or maybe it’s the unavoidable residue of lingering Viking genes in the environs.) A great variety of tomfoolery (in a place where it’s too cold for much foolery of any kind) has been exacted on the goats through the years: they have been burned down, kicked to pieces, shoved into the river, run over, threatened by a plans to spirit them away by helicopter, attacked with fireworks, and in a marvel of holiday-themed violence, shot by a flaming arrow by hooligans dressed as Santa and a gingerbread man.  All this, in spite of a variety of safety measures, from hired guards (who have been known to be bought off with a bottle of Akvavit), teams of volunteers, even the Home Guard.  In 1996 Gävle introduced goatcams to guard the goat, but this of course only inspired hackers to exacerbate the problem by shutting down the cameras and taunting officials with a banner on the town’s website that read “BURN THE DAMN GOAT!”  All told, through almost a half-century of goats, only about half have made it to Christmas. Probably setting a new record, the 2016 bock was torched only hours after its inauguration.

Links to the goat’s Twitter account, blog, and goatcam here

Image: one of the goats, pre-burn (from this source)

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