Arson as a Christmas Tradition: The Gävle Goat


I’m in Gävle, a city in Sweden, about a hundred
miles north of Stockholm. And every year, they have a Christmas tradition:
build an enormous goat out of straw and put it in the town square. It’s called the Gävle Goat. There is a second Christmas tradition in Gävle. Burning the goat down. It’s not like Guy Fawkes’ Night in Britain,
or Burning Man in California, where something is built to be burned down. Burning this down is arson, it is completely
illegal, and genuinely, the people who make the giant
straw goat do not want their giant straw goat to be burned
down. Giant straw goats are expensive. It’s just that in the fifty years that a ten-metre-high,
mostly-unprotected goat made of extremely flammable straw has been
put up here, the goat has only survived twelve times. Usually, it’s burned down. In 1976, it was hit by a car. In 1979, it was burned down before it even
made it here. In 1988, you could place a bet on whether
the goat would burn down. Or at least you could, until the goat burned
down. In 2001, an American tourist burned it down,
and when he was arrested he said his friends had told him that burning
the goat was an entirely legal tradition. He got a couple of weeks in jail, didn’t get
his cigarette lighter back, and left Sweden without paying a large fine. In 2005, vandals dressed as Santa Claus and
gingerbread men fired a burning arrow at the goat and burned
it down. In 2006, the city fireproofed the goat. It burned down. In 2009, there were webcams set up to spot
vandals. Those cameras were taken offline with a denial
of service attack just before the goat burned down. In 2011, they sprayed the goat with water
to form a protective coat of ice. It burned down. It is massive and it is made of tinder, it is really, really easy to burn down this
goat. Now, the local fire brigade are only two minutes
away, and sometimes they win. In 2014, despite three arson attempts, the
goat did survive. And now, it’s 2016, the goat was put up just
a few days ago, and as I record this, it’s still there. All it takes to create a tradition like this is the same thing happening for a few years
in a row. This goat wouldn’t be famous if it didn’t
burn down. I wouldn’t be here. This would just be a small local display. But every year, someone takes the risk of
a fine and criminal record and time in jail to try and burn down someone else’s hard work, probably because they’re drunk when they do
it. And that strange, in-the-shadows, battle, that almost sitcom-like plot, gets the world interested, and sends a few tourists to a fairly obscure
Swedish city. Place your bets. Quick update: I’m back in London, just landed
at Heathrow airport, literally just a few hours after filming that. The goat has already been burned to the ground.

100 thoughts on “Arson as a Christmas Tradition: The Gävle Goat”

  1. This was soooooo funny. I loved how many time you said "burned down." Looks like it burned up though. 🙂

  2. 2017 no one even tried. Might have something to do with that orange in a wig trying too burn the world in nuclear fire.

  3. These are the years the goat survived: 1967, 1968, 1981, 1988 (Tom was incorrect in saying it burnt down in that year), 1990, 1993-94, 1996-97, 2002, 2010, 2014. The goat also survived last year (2017)

  4. Good pronunciation for being mostly English speaking! It’s fascinating as a Swede to see foreign YouTubers making educational videos about things in my country.

  5. Not only was the goat you went to see burned down, the miniature version they replaced it with was hit by a car

  6. What if they just made it out of fluffy metal and spray painted it straw coloured and put a herd of goats around it to protect it.

  7. I was imagining the people screaming "burn the goat, burn the goat" and once it caught fire "YAAAAAAY".
    This made me realize a similar scenario, you see in on of the "Woody Woodpecker" episodes he's trying to go down the Niagra falls and it is illegal but anyway lots of people gather just to see someone try it and they succeed they scream "YAAAAAAAAAY".

  8. In 2017, The goat survived. They had Double fences, Cameras and Guards. I'm disappointed with all you commenters who said, "I'm gonna burn it next year".

  9. It's funny because each year (?) every newspaper in Sweden include the Gävlebocken being burned down, it gives me a chuckle each time.

  10. As a citizen of Gävle im a bit dissapointed it hasn’t burned down since you were there in 2016. As you said, the fact that it burns down is the only reason why it’s so famous. I want it to be up for a few weeks into december so you can have a look at it because it is a beauty. But they are making it harder to burn it down every year…

  11. I built a castle, it sank into the swamp. I built another that sank into the swamp. I built a third that burned down fell over and then sank into the swamp.

  12. At what point does the act of burning it down become protected in law as a cultural tradition?

  13. Apparently, the goat from this video was later replaced by a small replica made by high school students, which was then hit by a car.

  14. Throughout Pennsylvania there is a tradition that someone steals the baby Jesus from nativity scenes, it was even referenced in a song by The Wonder Years.

    And Now I'm Nothing

    "This is where it's been

    The manger scene every Christmas

    Next to the cannon

    Every year someone steals baby Jesus

    Nobody stops them

    It's a nice tradition"

  15. i think ill start using "the goat burned down" more often. Example:

    "So i tried to find diamonds in minecraft yesterday, but guess what, the goat burned down"

    Edit: R.I.P Goat

  16. So why then do they keep putting it up every year? was there a tradition behind that part? It fells like only half the story there

  17. Oh, please don’t arrest me for arsoning someone’s apartment and killing them, I’m just taking part in tradition

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