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The Finnish Joulupukki

Ilari-Grohn-Art on DeviantArt

Joulupukki translates to “Yule Goat.” Yuletide, is a pre-Christian pagan festival which was held as a midwinter celebration with feasting and sacrifice taking place across many Germanic cultures.

There is no certain answer as to the relate between goats and Yule. One concept links it to the Norse god Thor. He was associated with storms and fertility and drove a goat-led chariot. Thereby, goats became associated with harvests and fertility through him.

Traditions evolved on their own and men took to dressing up in horned goat costumes as part of the Yuletide rituals.

In Finland, the nuuttipukki are evil spirits who go from door to door demanding gifts and leftovers from the Yule feast.

Although the modern Joulupukkis appear and act like Santa Claus, history states and portrays a very different picture of the original ones. In Pagan history, bad spirits were warded off with prayers and other festivities.

The Joulupukkis were known to scare children during Christmas and demand presents from them instead of giving gifts. But others believe it was an invisible creature that helped prepare for Yule. There are blurred theories that give possibilities for the sudden transformation from an evil Joulupukki to the Saint like character of Father Christmas that originated in Finland. The Joulupukkis have remained almost in name only as the sole feature of the past.

However, Yule goats are common in Nordic countries made of wicker. Large statuesque wicker goats are ometimes erected in towns, such as the Gävle goat in Sweden, which is infamously burned.

In some areas of Finland, nuuttipukki still make visits on Nuutinpäivä, or St. Knut’s Day, which takes place on January 13 and is an end-blended Yuletide and the Christian Epiphany.