It’s Christmas time, and in Sweden that can only mean one thing—time to burn the Gavle goat.
For the 26th time since the citizens of Gavle built their first, massive celebratory straw goat for Christmas, arsonists have burned the statue to the ground. The 43-foot high, 3.6-ton straw goat was nothing more than ashes the morning of Dec. 14 after a trio of fire-starters jumped a security fence and apparently got an accelerant inside the one of the goat’s legs.

"Three guys snuck up to it and injected something into its leg and torched it," said Eje Berglund, who chairs the committee in charge of setting up the goat.

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As arsonists have grown bolder over the years, so too, have security measures. This year, the goat committee had 24-hour security cameras watching the goat, paid guards and a 5-foot high fence surrounding the statue. They also sprayed the goat with water, creating a layer of ice over the entire structure in hopes of foiling any fire bugs.
It didn’t work, and the “goat” itself, in a blog the committee published on the Gavle city website, talked about his ordeal. On Dec. 13, the goat blogged about a close encounter it had with persons unknown.
“Yikes, had one of those unpleasant visits last night, again! But I'm good and OK!” the blog read. “I do not like when strange people are running around my legs. I like visits but as long as it is outside my fence. There are some that are welcome around my legs and it's the fire department. They have been here tonight and sprayed water on my legs to protect me—thanks for that! Stuff like that I appreciate.
Hope it scares away unauthorized persons from me inside the fence.”
The next day, however, arsonists managed to start a blaze and the 2012 goat went the way of 25 others.

On Dec. 14, the goat explained what happened.
“Dear friends! I'm sorry to say that tonight at midnight someone couldn't keep their fingers away. I suddenly woke up. It became awfully hot—I noticed that I was on fire! The last hour was here!” the blog read. “I'm sorry that I can't celebrate Christmas and [the] New Year with you but I'm glad that I got this time with you! Have you seen or heard anything? Please contact the goat committee [at] gavlegoat@merjuligavle.se.”
The straw goat is a centuries-old Scandinavian Yule symbol that preceded Santa Claus as the bringer of gifts to Swedish homes. Many Swedes place a small straw goat underneath their Christmas trees, or hang miniature versions on the branches.
Aside from covering the Gavle goat in ice, authorities in the city have previously also tried to protect the 200,000 kronor ($30,000) Christmas symbol by using fireproofing chemicals and security guards. But only about a dozen of the goats have survived since the tradition of setting them up started in 1966.
Arson in not the only way people have tried to destroy it.
In 1976, it was run down by a car and in 2010, a plot to "kidnap" the goat with a helicopter and bring it to Stockholm was unveiled.
There has never been a clear motive why people attack the goat other than the challenge of trying to outwit authorities' attempts to protect it.
As for the goat, it said this year was only a minor setback in Gavle’s celebrations.
“I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! I [will] see you next year at Christmas!”
by Chipp Reid
Wire service reports contributed to this story.

Here's a bit more about the colorful and somewhat sad history of the Gävle goat, officially named the largest straw animal in the world.: Odds seem stacked against Christmas goat