Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Tuesday's Treasures & Things

Welcome Manzanita, a new follower of my blog. And thank you all so much for your comments on Part 1 of my Childhood Christmas. I'm so happy to learn that this is of interest, both in a personal and general sense.

Today's treasure is the Yule goat or Julbocken in Swedish. To tell you the truth, I had no idea where this custom came from. So, Google came to the rescue once again.

My friend Rachael, who is part Finnish, said that she remembered the Finnish word for Santa in a comment to a post of mine. When I read it, I thought she meant the Yule goat. What she wrote looked much like the Swedish word for Julbocken (Finland is a bi-lingual country – Finnish and Swedish are both spoken there.) However, when I looked it up, I found that the Finnish word for Santa Claus is Joulupukki, also similar to what Rachael wrote. I learned that in pagan times, there lived an evil spirit in Finland that appeared wearing goat skins and horns. Over time, and it said no one knows why or how, this evil spirit became a benevolent one that eventually turned into the Finnish version of Santa Claus.

Christmas folklore and traditions in Sweden and the other Nordic countries date back to pagan times. One explanation for the Swedish Yule goat stated that he originated with a goat that was a carrier for the god Thor. At first it seemed weird to me that the warrier god Thor, the god of thunder, a very powerful figure in our mythology, should have an important goat in his entourage. Then thinking about the scary goats of Finland, I understood that in those days, goats were not the cute and adorable critters we see on the farms of today. Instead, there were some very scary aspects to them as they associated with the devil and represented evil spirits.

As I read on, I found out that in 17th century Sweden, the goat was also a symbol of the devil, but more for fun, as people would dress up in goat skins and horns to frighten their neighbors. Then in the 18th century, the goat figure in Sweden changed and for a time was the one that came bearing the gifts. I had no idea of any of this, but I'm glad that the adorable goat has by now been redeemed and taken his rightful place at the side of Santa in Swedish Christmas traditions.


  1. Yes, glad your little straw Christmas goat is a happy spirit now! We could all stand to leave our little demons in the dust. :)

  2. Oh, Inger, I've finally got some time to breathe and it is just so good to get caught up on all of my favorite blogs. Love your Swedish Christmas stories, though I am very glad that you didn't catch your hair on fire when you were a child playing Santa Lucia. And, Samson is a hoot, as always. That dog is personality, plus.

    We're getting mega snow today, and it is lovely to sit at my desk and look out the window at the white flakes, knowing that I don't have to go out in it.

  3. What a great history lesson. My goodness how the goat went from one extreme to the next.
    I love your goat! :)

  4. wonderful

    I am instantly reminded of the movie , Monty Python and the Holy Grail where they meet Tim the Enchanter. He wears goat horns and has a scraggly beard.

    But it is an interesting transition from devil- like to a prized friend

  5. That is so sweet. I love all this new found information I now have. I'm glad the goats are the good guys now because they are so adorable. Is there a part three?

  6. Inger: Thank you so much. I knew absolutely none of that about goats and Christmas! Very interesting.

  7. Goats and Christmas, something I would never have thought went together. Interesting post, Inger!

    Yesterday's word verification on your blog was - get this - inger!

  8. Inger,
    I love learning about your customs and how they originate. How much do you continue today?
    thanks for the lesson....

  9. Terry M Scott: Thanks!

    texwisgirl: You're right about that!

    AJ-Oaks: Isn't it interesting?

    Upupaepops: Yes, I really learned something today.

    Louise: Don't forget to breathe. I'm glad the snow will give you a break from running around.

    Beverly: Yes, I still have to talk about Swedish Santas, Christmas Eve celebrations, and plundering the tree.

    Jeff: I'm glad you learned something new today, like I did, as well.

    Sharon: How funny about my name.

    Tracy: I continue with all the Swedish ornaments, runners, tablecloths, and the ADvent candles. None of the food or drink. I used to make the glogg (more about that later) but since I got diabetes, I stopped. -- It is a sweet and very strong warm wine drink. I also stopped the Christmas Eve traditions and we now do the gifts on Christmas morning. My husband likes it and I am an American, after all.

  10. I agree with you and am glad the goat has earned his proper place, Inger....:)JP

  11. lovely pic
    thanks for your comments

  12. I've seen the straw goats, but had no idea of the story behind them. Thanks, Inger.

  13. This is so interesting! Thank you for sharing history and your culture with us. Love learning things new!

  14. Inger...my husband (Gary Skoog) and I (Lori Olson) both grew up with Swedish traditions. For more than 20 years Gary and our friend Randy Sundquist (also Swedish) have made korv (Swedish sausage) from scratch. I also make a mean rice pudding. On Christmas Eve we have many of our friends over for a smorgasbord. Wish you lived closer...you are invited!

  15. Great tradition and pic of goat, Inger!

  16. I did not know all of this, Inger. I enjoyed reading it. Gerry

  17. Imagine,a goat being included in the mighty Thor's entourage! Now I have a name for Cules'stud ram! ha ha. This is all very interesting Ingir,folklore and Mythology is a favourite subject to me.

  18. I have always admired Swedish Christmas folk art pieces, especially that feature the goats. Now I know the history behind it. Thank you Inger. I bet these stories bring back many good holiday memories. :)

  19. I was just at a shop this morning that featured what I see must be Swedish Christmas decorations! Wish you'd been there, too. ;)

  20. Inger, what a wonderful post. I love reading about traditions and where they come from. My dear friend and once our foreign exchange student from Norway has wonderful stories and traditions she has shared with us. I am so glad the goaties are seen in a good light now. These sweet little things could never be devils :)

  21. Inger, before I forget, I've a little something for you at my blog.

    Now, about the goat...thank you for some great info. Hub and I were talking about the Swedish goat last night and couldn't understand why a goat. It all falls into place now. Thank you! (this is such fun stuff to learn!)

  22. what an interesting blog!
    I love learning stuff like this


Thanks for leaving a comment.. ~~ Inger


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