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Yule goat's five-year flame-free streak ends ignominiously

Swedish city refuses to make tradition of setting fire to a tradition a tradition

Some traditions ought to be set on fire, but sadly for Sweden's Gävlebocken – a giant Yule goat made of straw – setting fire to traditions has become a tradition in itself.

After five arson-free Christmases, the goat succumbed in the early hours of 17 December and a man in his 40s was arrested, Reuters reports, despite efforts by the city of Gävle to develop a flame-retardant idol.

The goat was first erected in the town square in December 1966. It burned down on New Year's Eve thus beginning a glorious (and illegal) tradition. Gävlebocken has since been engulfed by flames at least 35 times.

In 2005 arsonists dressed as Santa Claus and the Gingerbread Man burned the goat to the ground. They were never caught.

It doesn't help that Gävlebocken's Twitter account posts pictures of the goat every day, saying things like "Looking good standing tall!" as if to challenge would-be firestarters.

The annual assaults appear to have started from 12 December, when Gävlebocken reported "my heart feels heavy when I see that someone has attacked you." The following day, "drunk people" were said to have tried to "jump over my fences in the middle of the night."

On 15 December, the baiting continued:

Only to be followed a couple of days later with:

Why not officially sanction the tradition of setting fire to the tradition rather than going to all the effort of hiring guards, round-the-clock surveillance, and buying "vast quantities of flame retardant"?

Set it up then tell the good people of Gävle, "Listen, on [enter date] we will blast this goddamn goat into the next life as a community."

It's served the people of Britain well enough for hundreds of years. No one really knows why we set off fireworks on 5 November but it's good fun and generally accepted that the guy on top of the bonfire is a bad egg. ®

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