COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — Gavle’s two straw goats, Sweden’s most endangered Christmas decorations, have caught fire after surviving nearly a month in a downtown square.
Animals are a beloved Swedish Christmas symbol, dating back to pagan times. But in what has become something of a tradition in Gavle, 163 kilometers (101 miles) north of Stockholm, arsonists early Friday destroyed both – a giant decorative straw goat and a little brother.
A suspect in his 40s was arrested. Police said the man allegedly had soot on his hands and matched a description given by witnesses, who said the fire started in the small goat before spreading to the large one. Only the metal frames remained standing.
Since Gavle’s first straw goat – 13 meters (43ft) tall and weighing three tonnes – was erected in 1966, the annual decoration has been burned or broken dozens of times, once before it even be completed. The last time arsonists struck was in 2016, but a record four-year period of peace was shattered on Friday.
The goat is an ancient Norse symbol of Yuletide which preceded Santa Claus as a bearer of gifts.
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