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COPENHAGEN, Denmark (WRIC/AP) — The two straw goats of Gavle, Sweden’s most endangered Christmas decorations, have gone up in flames after surviving nearly a month on a downtown square.

The animals are a beloved Swedish Christmas symbol, dating back to pagan times. But in what’s become a tradition of sorts in Gavle, 163 kilometers (101 miles) north of Stockholm, arsonists early Friday destroyed both — a giant decorative goat made of straw and a smaller sibling.

A suspect in his 40s was detained. Police said the man allegedly had soot on his hands and matched a description given by witnesses, who said the fire started in the small goat before spreading to the big one. Only the metal frames were left standing.

The Unfortunate Goat

Gavle’s first straw goat — 13 meters (43 feet) tall and weighing three tons — was erected on Dec.1, 1966. The inaugural goat lasted exactly one month, according to an official city history, before burning on New Year’s eve.

Since then, the annual decoration has been burnt or smashed dozens of times — once before it was even finished.

The arsonists have included an American tourist, two men dressed as Santa Claus and the Gingerbread Man, and a Norwegian.

Although the goat survived four years in a row, history shows the goat burns more often than it survives – and this year it once again suffered a fiery fate.

The goat is an ancient Scandinavian Yuletide symbol that preceded Santa Claus as the bringer of gifts.