St Lucia and the Yule Goat

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In the past few weeks Ó¦rebro has come alive with preparations for the holidays. In between classes there have been Christmas Markets, the appearance of a giant Yule Goat in the city center, and concerts featuring St Lucia. Decorations look quite different here in that holiday lights tend to be white only, and most windows display a row of electric candles and perhaps a paper star lit by a small white bulb.  And no religiously themed decorations even outside of churches, which was very strange for me. 

I tried to find the history of the Yule Goat, and got quite a few responses from the locals.  Some told me it is one of the goats that drives Thor’s chariot, others said it was a spirit that would appear at Swedish houses to make sure all Yule preparations were in order.  Still others said that the Yule Goat (or a townsman dressed as the goat) delivered presents to the town children.  From that, I think it’s safe to say that it’s a mythical Norse figure that is connected to Yule celebrations.  The town of Gävle has a curious “tradition” in relation to the Yule Goat; it has been destroyed (usually by fire) so many times that people worldwide place bets on its survival through the month of December.  (This year’s goat had a Twitter page chronicling its status, and it survived to be dismantled by the town officials on 29 Dec.)

St Lucia is said to be “the bringer of light” during the long dark Nordic winters.  She wears a crown of lighted candles in her hair and “lights” the homes and villages she visits.  Lucia is embodied by local children carrying candles and one older girl who is selected to portray St. Lucia herself, complete with lit candles in her hair. There are numerous concerts in her honor, and it is quite a beautiful ceremony (although I admit I was a bit distracted by worrying that her hair would catch fire).

Göd Jul and Gott Nytt Ǻr! (Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!)