Traveler’s Advent Calendar: Gävle’s Goat

Yesterday I was telling you all about my idea to bring a Traveler’s Advent Calendar and write twenty-five different entries to infect you with my infinite Christmas spirit. A day later, I can affirm that we are probably like goats for embarking on these festive madnesses, but I really want to give away a daily post to all the readers who have been there all year round.

Speaking of goats, the second door of the Advent calendar brings one of the craziest Christmas traditions circulating in the world: Gävle’s Goat.

Gävle, Sweden

Gävle is a small town 175 kilometres north of Stockholm, or about two hours by car. It has approximately 100,000 inhabitants and on the first day of Advent of each Christmas, the merchants’ association builds a giant straw goat – over three tons in weight and almost 15 meters high! The goat is always in the same place of the city, the famous “Plaza del Castillo”.

It takes two days to erect such a monument of dry grass, and the most curious of all is that it has its own security device and a nearby fire station, since during the month of December, several people will try to burn the goat. How do you read it!

Burning the straw goat is not part of the tradition and some Gävle residents are very angry, but for others it seems to be an irresistible arsonist pleasure. So, the village of Gävle decided that if the vandals burn the sculpture before St. Lucia’s Day, when the city organizes a beautiful parade (December 13), then it is imperative that the goat be rebuilt. Recently they also installed a camera that watches the goat 24 hours a day, but the security system has been hacked several times, with the goat once again reduced to ashes. You can see the camera, in real time, here.

la cabra de paja de la ciudad de Gavle

Photo courtesy of Albin Bogren

Every year, the police and neighbours try to capture those responsible for the fire, but so far they have only been able to find the culprits four times. One of the years was an American tourist, who thought that burning the goat was part of the custom, and did not hesitate to play Swedish for a day and be part of the ritual.

However, as mentioned above, destroying this straw sculpture is considered vandalism and in fact, this tourist went to jail for 18 days as punishment for his unfortunate mistake. If he had read this post from the Advent Calendar of The Travel Blog, it would not have happened to him!

This tradition of the straw goat has seemed so interesting to me that it has encouraged me to do some research and make a list of some things to see in Gävle.

castillo de Gavle

calle del centro histórico de Gavle

What to see in Gavle

Gävle Castle, built in 1593 by King Johan III. Legend has it that in 1727 a maiden came down a tower from the attic, where she had collected clean and dry clothes. He was carrying a candle with a candle to light up and unfortunately, the clothes caught fire. The fire spread quickly and so today the castle we can visit does not have that tower.
Swedish Prison Museum. One of the most surprising places that I would only recommend to interested people, tells the story of Swedish prisons. From the time immemorial when criminals were confined in dungeons inside castles to the present day. The ticket costs SEK 80 (about 7 euros) and travellers estimate one hour to cover the entire journey.
The historic center of the city, which has several original houses from the year 1700. At that time these streets were occupied by fishermen and artisans of wood. Domestic animals like pigs or goats were loose on the streets and there was no public sanitation system, so the smell was stinky; nothing to do with the picturesque beauty we find today.
The Gävle tourism website also offers a self-guided walking tour, with a free downloadable map.

This is the second door of the Advent Calendar from The Travel Blog. Looking through this door we have seen the small Swedish town of Gävle, where its inhabitants are very busy protecting their goat from the fire during the month of December. Will they make it? I will certainly follow the Swedish news closely to find out!