Page last updated at 15:43 GMT, Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Swedish Christmas straw goat burnt

Charred skeleton of Gavle goat
Nearly every year the goat is razed, sometimes within hours of being built

A giant straw goat - the traditional Scandinavian yuletide symbol - erected each Christmas in a Swedish town has been burned to the ground yet again.

The 13-metre (43-ft) high billy goat has been torched 24 times since it was first erected in Gavle in 1966.

The goat was set alight in the early hours of Wednesday morning in the city north of Stockholm.

City spokeswoman Anna Ostman said the incident, which is being treated as serious vandalism, was "sad".

"We had really hoped that he would survive Christmas and New Year's," she said.

Blogging goat

As well as being burnt, the goat has over the years faced other acts of vandalism including being run over by a car, having its legs removed and being smashed.

1966: The first goat is burned down - beginning the tradition
1970: It is set on fire six hours after being erected
1971: Schoolchildren build a miniature; it is smashed to pieces
1976: A car crashes into the goat
1979: Goat is burned down before it is finished
1987: Goat is treated with fire-proofing, but is still burned down
2001: Tourist from Cleveland, Ohio is jailed for burning goat
2005: Two men dressed as Santa and Gingerbread Man torch goat

After some experimentation, city officials decided not to spray the straw-covered wooden structure with fire-proofing chemicals as this discoloured the straw, making it "look like a brown terrier instead of a yellow straw goat" Ms Ostman said.

The city's website offers a bilingual blog and Twitter feed, as well as webcams to allow fans to follow the beleaguered goat's fate.

In one of its last entries, the goat writes: "Terrible night! Slept so well under my beautiful snow blanket, when it suddenly became awfully hot. It was fire!!! At 0300 someone managed to set me on fire and destroy the amazing Christmas spirit in Gavle."

Just 10 of Gavle's goats, built in the town's central square, have survived beyond Christmas since 1966.

Most have been burned, sometimes within hours of being erected in the first week of December.

The culprits are seldom caught. However, a 51-year-old American tourist spent 18 days in jail after being convicted of setting it alight in December 2001.

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