The Yule Goat: the welfare state Santa vs. the predator Santa


 There is a pagan tradition from Scandinavia which I think needs to be revived at this time of the year, namely the Yule Goat. I think all this talk about Santa, sleighs, and reindeers has become rather hackneyed and stale and needs to be replaced with a newer and fresher set of symbols to mark the period of feasting and gift-giving during the winter solstice (summer if you live in the southern hemisphere). According to legend, Thor rode a chariot across the sky pulled by two goats, Tanngrisnir and Tanngnjóstr, after which he would kill them and then serve them to his guests in a banquet. The next day he would suffer remorse at eating his faithful livestock and would bang his hammer on the ground to bring them back to life for another round of similar activities. Seems a little mean spirited to me.

Another mean-spirited yet charming Scandinavian tradition has the Yule Goat (Santa), not giving presents to people, but demanding that they give him presents instead. This is a nice reversal of the welfare state image of Santa as the universal gift-giver (no one ever explains how he pays for all this largesse - I guess they have solved the problem of economic scarcity at the North Pole). We now have the much more realistic story of the statist Yule Goat/Santa who demands booty and plunder every year from the people. You will remember of course that it was the Roman Empire’s need for more taxes that brought Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem to participate in a census to plug the holes in the tax records. It’s nice to see the pagan and Christian religions coming together on this important issue.

Posted: Wednesday - December 28, 2011 at 06:11 PM