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In Swedish Town, Straw Goat For Advent Often Meets Fiery End

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And now this - we have begun Advent. It is perhaps most simply described as a countdown to Christmas. Many people keep an Advent calendar of the days before December 25. The town of Gavle, Sweden has its own Advent tradition. Every year the town unveils a giant, 42-foot-high, straw goat in the town square. Why a goat you ask? Well, do you really need a reason? It's a goat. The town persists in this tradition despite past disasters, including the repeated torching of the goat, among other acts of vandalism.

JOHAN ADOLFSSON: The goat has been demolished by vandals. It has been hit and run once. It has actually been stolen once. Don't ask me how they did it (laughter).

INSKEEP: That's Johan Adolfsson, spokesperson for the Gavle goat. It has a spokesperson. He says every year the town takes measures to protect this goat, but somehow it gets destroyed anyway. People built a fence; it suffered a death by flaming arrows over the fence. People recruited guards, who were offered bribes. People installed cameras, and the system was hacked. The goat burned minutes later. The goat survives only about half the time, yet the town builds it anyway.

ADOLFSSON: Are we stubborn, or are we stupid? I don't know, but we like the goat.

INSKEEP: Now there's some suspense; how will the goat survive Christmas this year? If it does, you can find out by following the goat on twitter, @Gavlebocken. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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