Christmas Quirks: The Gävle Goat and Trafalgar Square Tree

Every year, two quirks mark Scandinavia’s Advent festivities. In Gävle (200 km north of Stockholm) a giant straw goat is erected and, in London, a tree has been shipped over from Norway…

The Gävle Goat

Sweden’s largest goat (or largest bonfire) goes up in at Slottstorget in Gävle’s city centre on the first day of Advent. Despite its illegality, fire padding, and threats of prosecution, the goat has been the target of repeated arson attacks since its first appearance in 1966 (one year, indeed, vandals waited callously to strike until guards had ducked into a nearby restaurant to escape the cold). This year, along with the return of security, the 13m structure will be housed in a new location. Many fear the usual spot, near a fire station could be missed. Along with the quick response it provided, tradition dictates that, if the goat is burned before 13th December, it is rebuilt. Last year it outlived the deadline, but was burnt four days later, on 17th December. This year, so far, it has survived.

The Trafalgar Square Christmas Tree

Thanking the United Kingdom for housing its royal family and government-in-exile during the Second World War, Norway’s tradition of sending a large c.20m tall spruce tree began in 1947. The first delivery came, though, in 1942, while the king was still in residence, and saw a tree taken from the island of Hisøy, just off the coast of Bergen. Since 2009, poems have been displayed on banners around the base of tree, with its switch-on initiated by the Lord Mayor of London, usually on the first Thursday in December, and in the presence of Norwegian diplomats. Similarly, for its cutting in Norway, the British Ambassador to Norway, Mayor of Oslo and Lord Mayor of Westminster are present.

This article is a Fika Online exclusive.

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