Tradition – Sweden

“Each Christmas the house is decorated with statues, pictures, and ornaments.  Our family from Sweden always brings gifts, and over the years they have always brought the wicker animals… with the red ribbon wrapped around them.  They look like goats, or horses, and come in all different sizes.  We put out the tiny ones for decoration.  Every Christmas, someone would hide one of them and you girls [my three cousins] would try to find it.  And then whoever found it would get a chance to hide it and that’s how it went on.”

After I interviewed my grandma, she called my Swedish relatives to find out more about the Julbock.  They told her that the Julbock (the Yule Goat) has long been a part of Swedish tradition.  Sometimes made from the last straw of the harvest, the Julbock has often been associated with farming and represents hope for the new year (hope for good crops and prosperity).  One of my Swedish cousins said that it is possible that the game of hiding the Julbock was a way of integrating a Pagan holiday ritual with the more formal Christian traditions that occur during Christmas.  However, most people in my family are not religious and are not trying to unite their religion with pagan traditions.  In fact, most of my family, including myself, did not know why we hid the Julbock, even though it has been a tradition in our family for many generations.  I always figured my grandma made up the game to keep my cousins and I out of trouble and to give us something to do in between unwrapping presents and eating Christmas dinner.

Also, in our family we do not even call it a Julbock; my grandma usually refers to it as “the goat”.  Since my family knows so little about the tradition of hiding the Julbock, I asked my grandmother why we continue the tradition every Christmas.  She said that she liked seeing my cousins and I playing together, and that it reminded her of when my dad was younger and would also try and find the toy animal.  Therefore, it seems like even though my family may not know the historical origins of the Julbock, the tradition has great importance because it brings our family members together during the holidays.  Also, it helps establish our family as a unique group with our own identity, since not every family hides a Julbock during Christmastime.