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Arsonists destroy Sweden's straw Christmas goat in under 24 hours

By Ben Hooper
Arsonists destroy Sweden's straw Christmas goat in under 24 hours
The traditional yule goat in Gavle, Sweden, prior to being set aflame by arsonists less than 24 hours after it was unveiled. Screenshot: Thomas Edlund/YouTube

GAVLE, Sweden, Nov. 28 (UPI) -- The 50th anniversary of a Swedish city's giant straw Christmas goat proved to be a short celebration indeed as it was set aflame in under 24 hours.

The Christmas goat in Gavle, a 50-year tradition in the city, gained worldwide notoriety in recent years thanks to an unofficial tradition -- vandals destroying the goat, usually through use of fire.

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The nearly 45-foot-tall 2016 goat was unveiled in Slottstorget square Sunday in a ceremony broadcast live around the country, and the yule decoration was engulfed by flames by 11 p.m. -- a short life even by the Christmas goat's standards.

"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 official "Gavlebocken" Twitter account said.

The goat was the 35th to be destroyed by arson in the 50 years of the tradition.

Officials said they plan to stick to the tradition of not rebuilding the goat, despite its short tenure on the 50th anniversary of the first straw goat.

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"There will be a great, great sadness for Gavle residents, the Gavle goat and for all of its fans over the world," Maria Wallberg, a spokeswoman for the event organizers told Sweden's TT news.

Wallberg said extra security cameras were installed this year in an attempt to ward off goat burners for at least the sculpture's first weekend, but the cameras failed to film the culprits behind Sunday's fire.

"They only recognize movement within the alarm zone, inside the fencing. Here, someone stood outside and threw a Molotov cocktail," Wallberg said.

Police are investigating the incident.

A video posted by Yazan Dairi (@yazandairi) on

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