Tuesday, December 11, 2012
The Yule Goat - A Scandinavian Christmas
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.
Julebukking - Swedish Christmas Goat by John Bauer (1912) Julebukking is a Christmas tradition of Norwegian origin. The tradition of the Christmas buck (Julebukk) is believed to have originated in Norway, where pagans worshiped Thor, the god who traveled in his chariot drawn by two goats. During the Yule holiday, they would disguise their appearance by dressing in a goatskin and go from house to house carrying a goat head. Christian missionaries modified the tradition and divorced its meaning from Paganism.
The Yule Goat became one of the oldest Scandinavian and Northern European Yule and Christmas symbols and traditions. In Scandinavia, the figure of the julebukk is used as a common Christmas ornament. It is often made out of straw, has a red ribbon around its neck, and is found under the Christmas tree. Though the practice of Julebukking may be dying out, it is still observed in areas in America with large populations of people of Scandinavian descent, such as the rural areas of Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota and in Petersburg, Alaska and Ketchikan, Alaska. Between Christmas and New Year's Day, people wearing masks and costumes (Julebukkers) go door to door, where neighbors receiving them attempt to identify who is under the disguise. Julebukkers will often disguise their voices and body language to further the masquerade. Offering people holiday treats and something to drink is customary. Once identities are known and the food is eaten, the Julebukkers continue to the next home. In one version of Julebukking, people go from door to door singing Christmas songs. After they have sung, they are usually awarded with candy. Another tradition requires that at least one person from the visited household join the band of Julebukkers and continue to the next household.