For 50 years a 3.6 tonne straw goat has been built in Gävle, central Sweden, to celebrate the beginning of the festive season as it is believed to be a well-wishing spirit that watches over the Christmas preparations.
However, this year the festive celebrations have already taken a hit, as the Christmas icon was burned to the ground within 24 hours of being unveiled.
By 11pm on Sunday, the beloved goat was in flames on Gävle’s Slottstorget square, to the great disappointment of locals, most of whom did not get to see this year’s incarnation before it was destroyed by the fire.
The event”s organisers said the thugs managed to get past on-site security when one of the guards was on a toilet break.
Maria Wallberg, a spokesperson for the goat’s organisers, said: “There will be a great, great sadness for Gävle residents, the Gävle goat and for all of its fans over the world.”
The traditional goat is so popular in the Scandinavian country it is shown on live television and this year more than 2.3 million Swedish Kronor was spent on creating it.
2016 marked the 50-year celebration of the straw goat being erected in the town square and a number of security measures were taken to protect it, in the hope it would last until the end of Christmas as it is not the first time it has been targeted by vandals.
However, the measures were all in vein and police have now launched a preliminary investigation for inflicting gross damage and are looking for the perpetrators.
Police Central Region spokesperson Matilda Isaksson said: “We don’t know how the fire started so unfortunately I can’t comment on that.
“We are very interested if there are more people who made observations from the scene.”
Initially the organisers said the icon would not be rebuilt this year, which marks the 35th time it has been destroyed, however Ms Wallberg has hinted it could be rebuilt if the funds were raised in time.
Recreating the giant icon will cost more than 100,000 kronor, not including the cost of the manual labour, and it would take around 1,000 hours.
Ms Wahlberg said: “We want the goat to live more than a few hours. We”re going to look into now if it is possible to quickly build a new goat and what it would cost.
“The goat is loved all over the world and I am convinced that the friends of the goat both want to and will donate money to build a new one.”
The sickening tradition of destroying the Yule goat has also made it famous internationally and it even has its own Twitter account.
Shortly after burning down, someone tweeted out: “Oh no, such a short amount of time with you my friends. But I shall rise from the ashes and see you next year again!”
The Yule goat was also destroyed on December 27 last year and on December 21 in 2013.