The story of Yule goat can be traced back to ancient pagan winter festival when goats were burned by Thor, the Norse god. The traditions related to Yule goat have come a long way when its role changed with the change of centuries. At first, history witnessed Yule goat as a visitor to check whether the Christmas celebrations are over and then, as someone who scared children and demanded gifts. The 19th century witnessed Yule goat as the giver of gifts though Santa took up this role and responsibility in 20th century. The customs and traditions regarding Yule goat are plenty and differ all through the world. While some Swedish towns still erect huge statues of the Yule goat, few Scandinavian towns burn these Yule goats to commemorate the killing of goats. Read on to know more about the story of Yule goat, the myths, traditions and customs related to it.
The Story Of Yule Goat
The story of Yule goat is about the Norse god, Thor whose chariot was pulled by two goats. He killed his goats during the winter pagan festival of Yule and fed them to the other gods. The next morning, he felt remorseful for having killed the goats and resurrected them using his hammer.
A Scandinavian Custom
A custom which is dated back to pre-Christian days, Yule goat marked the beginning of Christianity in Northern Europe. Perceived as an unseen creature in Scandinavia, it visits the towns just before the Christmas season to ensure that all the preparations are in order or are over. Here, people also play pranks by keeping Yule goats in the house of a neighbour, without their notice, who is required to get rid of the goat in the same manner. Scandinavians also had a custom of Yule goat demanding gifts from people rather than presenting gifts. This was just the reverse of the nice image of Santa as a gift giver. However, the 19th century witnessed a role shift for Yule goats as they then became giver of gifts.
Yule Goat In Finland
In the initial days, Finland people viewed Yule goat as an ugly creature which scared children. Here, there was also a custom of a man, from every family, dressing up as a Yule goat. By 20th century, its job was taken over by Santa, even though he is still known by the name 'Yule goat' in Finland. However, the custom of man dressing up as goat has disappeared from Finland.
Yule Goat In Sweden
Swedish people practise the Thor story by having two actors dress up as Thor and a fellow god and a third actor dressed up as the goat who was sacrificed. A song is played in the background and the goat is resurrected at the end of the song.
Contemporary Yule Goat
A universal giver of gifts, Yule goat's job has been taken over by Santa who rides the Yule goats. Popularly seen as a Christian decoration made of straw, huge versions of Yule goat are erected by many Swedish towns during Christmas. It is said that in Scandinavia, these erected Yule goats are burned to commemorate the killing of goats in the ancient period.
The article above delves into details of Yule goat and the related tradition to enlighten you regarding this Christmas figure and the myths and traditions related to it.