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Vandals Burn Swedish Christmas Goat, Again

The Associated Press
Sunday, December 4, 2005; 9:20 AM

STOCKHOLM, Sweden -- Vandals set light to a giant straw goat Saturday night in a central Swedish town, police said _ an event that has happened so frequently it has almost become a Christmas tradition.

It was the 22nd time that the goat had gone up in smoke since merchants in Gavle, 150 kilometers (90 miles) north of Stockholm, began erecting it to mark the holiday season.

Police spokeswoman Margareta Olander said officers received a call just after 9 p.m. to report that the goat was ablaze.

"In just a couple of minutes only a sooty wooden skeleton remained," she said. There were no immediate suspects, but Olander said that one of two men seen running from the scene was wearing a Father Christmas mask.

Since 1966, just 10 of the 43-foot-high goats have survived beyond Christmas Day. Most were burned _ sometimes within hours of being built during the first week of December. The 1976 goat was hit by a car, while in 1997, it was damaged by fireworks.

The vandals are seldom caught, but in 2001, the goat was set on fire on Dec. 23 by a 51-year-old visitor from Cleveland, Ohio. The culprit, Lawrence Jones, was convicted and spent 18 days in jail.

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On the Net:

Christmas Goat: http://www.gavle.se

© 2005 The Associated Press