Nordic Christmas: Julbock

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This post is part of our series exploring Nordic Christmas traditions. To see the entire collection, visit the Nordic Christmas home page.

It surprised me to discover that while reindeer are so prominent in our Christmas traditions, that they did not play such an outsized role in their own lands. Instead the Julbock is the main Christmas animal. Jul, as you know, means yule and refers to the season and the holiday, and bock means goat. Julbock translates literally to Christmas goat.

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The Julbock tradition dates beyond Christianity. Picture if you will a mythic man riding in a chariot pulled by quadrupeds. We may typically think of Santa Claus but the Norse God Thor drove a chariot pulled by a pair of goats. 

Over time the goats’ presence in Nordic culture transformed from being the ones who pulled the chariot to that of a humanoid-goat figure who delivered the gifts. You can’t miss seeing the enduring legacy of goats in modern Christmas decor. Straw Julbock are the most common, although you can find Julbock made from just about any material and serving a variety of purposes. 

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For our celebration I made a Julbock for my little one to play with his Dala Horse. 

We also have some Julbock straw ornaments on the tree. Again, straw ornaments are very common. 

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As for the origins and evolution of the Julbock, our family is grateful that the big man in red now delivers the gifts instead of some half-man-half-goat creature that is part scary and possibly mean. We are much happier to have a straw goat ornament on our tree. 

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