The Yule Goat is one of the oldest Scandinavian and Northern European Yule and Christmas symbols and traditions. Originally denoting the goat that was slaughtered during the Germanic pagan festival of Yule, “Yule Goat” now typically refers to a goat-figure made of straw. It is also associated with the custom of wassailing, sometimes referred to as “going Yule Goat” in Scandinavia
The function of the Yule Goat has differed throughout the ages. In Finland, the Yule Goat was originally said to be an ugly creature that frightened children, and demanded gifts at Christmas. In Scandinavia, people thought of the Yule Goat as an invisible creature that would appear some time before Christmas to make sure that the Yule preparations were done right. During the 19th century its role shifted towards becoming the giver of Christmas gifts, in Finland as well as the rest of Scandinavia, with one of the men in the family dressing up as the Yule Goat The goat was replaced by jultomte or julenisse (Father Christmas/Santa Claus) at the end of the century, although he is still called the Yule Goat (Joulupukki) in Finland, and the tradition of the man-sized goat disappeared.
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