• Christmas: Killing Gävle!


    Killing Gävle!

    In the small city of Gävle, northern Sweden, there is an annual fight between local custodians and mischievous pagans for the spirit of Christmas. Each year since 1966, business owners have paid for a 13-metre (40ft) effigy of a goat to be made of straw and displayed in the central square from the first day of Advent. In 37 of those years, the goat has been burned down or damaged by shadowy outsiders, sometimes within a few hours of going up. In this film, residents from both sides of the goat conflict explain their hopes and motivations as Advent ticks down to Christmas.

    In Sweden, the goat traditionally pulls Santa's sleigh and has come to symbolise Christmas. Gävle's businesses believe the effigy brings both local families and tourists to the city, boosting the economy. But people living in the forests surrounding the city hold a different view. Their traditions date back to pre-Christian times, when Swedish people worshipped Norse gods – including the goat Heidrun, the goddess of enlightenment, and Thor, the god of thunder, who rode two goats. Each night he would burn and eat them, only for them to be reborn the following morning to pull his his chariot once more.

    The pagans believe that the Christians of Gävle unknowingly build this giant statue to the Norse gods, so each Christmas they must try to burn it down before the end of the year, ensuring the return of the sun and another good year of harvests.

    And consequently, each year the people of Gävle corral around the goat, protecting its Christmas symbolism from the pagan outsiders.



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