One of my favourite Christmas memories is of the pair of five-foot-tall straw goats that my family used to have. Just before visitors arrived, we would put the goats outside the front door -- sometimes with hand-written welcome signs tied to them, sometimes with Christmas hats on their heads -- to welcome the guests.
The Christmas goats, or julebuk, as the Danish call them, are a big part of the Scandinavian Christmas celebration. Some think that they are a tradition left over from Viking times, when families would sacrifice a goat in the hopes of having a prosperous year; the julebuk was a hommage to the spirit of that goat. Others believe that the julebuk comes from the early worship of the god Thor, whose chariot was pulled by goats. The goats like to make sure that all the Christmas preparations are done properly, and if they are happy, they have been known to put an extra present or two under the tree!
This year, we've welcomed a family of five goats into our home. I like to think they've journeyed across from Denmark to be here with us -- dodging sharks and whales and tankers as they swam across the Atlantic.
I hope that if we keep the julebuk warm, well fed, and out of the jaws of Bella, they might not only make this year a good one, but keep alive the Danish spirit and tradition of Christmas that has been so strong in my family, and help us pass it along to Tilly.