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Swedes Guard Christmas Goat From Vandals


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Swedes Guard Christmas Goat From Vandals

By MATTIAS KAREN, Associated Press Writer

Sun Dec 3,

STOCKHOLM, Sweden - For 40 years it has been torched, vandalized, had its legs cut off and even been run over by a car. But officials in the Swedish city of Gavle are guaranteeing that this year's giant straw Christmas goat _ the victim of Sweden's most violent yule tradition _ will survive unscathed.

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 Gavle's square on Dec. 3, 1966.

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 Gavle's giant goats have survived beyond Christmas Day. Aside from being burned, several were beaten down and the 1976 goat was hit by a car.

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.


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Copyright 2006 The Associated Press.

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Swedish Christmas Goat Survives Attack



STOCKHOLM, Sweden (AP) - Vandals tried to set fire to a giant straw goat in central Sweden but failed to burn down the traditional Christmas monument, which has been soaked with flame-resistant chemicals, officials said Friday.

The overnight raid was the season's first attack on the 43-foot-high Christmas goat in the city of Gavle, 90 miles north of Stockholm. The goat has been burned down more than 20 times in the last 40 years in what has become a yule tradition.

"Somebody tried to set fire to the right front leg, but the flame-resistant chemical worked 100 percent," said Kurt Lagerholm, chairman of the goat committee.

"There's smell of gasoline and the ribbon is a bit smutty, but otherwise it's unhurt," he said.

Since it was first erected on Dec. 3 in 1966, the goat has been hit by flaming arrows, run over by a car and even had its legs cut off - surviving only 10 times beyond Christmas Day.

This year, officials doused the straw goat with flame-resistant chemicals and set up two 24-hour Web cams to try to protect it, but Lagerholm said the overnight attackers managed to sneak past the cameras by coming in at the only angle the cameras did not reach. The suspects were still at large Friday.

Last year's goat was burned down by vandals dressed up as Santa Claus and the Gingerbread Man. They were never caught.

Copyright 2006 Associated Press

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