The History of the Julebuk (The Christmas buck)

A Julebuk (Christmas buck) nowadays is a goat made of straw, tied together with red ribbons.


According to the famous Danish-Nowegian writer Holberg and Danish folklorist and author H.F. Feilberg a julebuk was formerly a person who performed disguised as a goat in "julestuer", which were Christmas banquets involving eating, partying, heavy drinking and Christmas games.


The julebuk could, for example, be equipped with fierce attributes that emphasized his animalistic masculinity. A narrative from the 16th century describes young people running around in "terrifying masks and other devilish gear," scaring people for fun and causing mischief. In folklore, the julebuk was a supernatural being in the form of a goat that could be invoked in play, and it is tempting to compare the julebuk to the Greek god Pan or a Nordic fertility figure.


The tradition of julebukke dates back to the Middle Ages and is almost exclusively known in the Nordic region, and the tradition of julebukke made of straw is only known in Denmark after 1945, when there was a strong influx of Swedish Christmas traditions.


According to the historian Troels Troels-Lund, the julebuk is a remnant from the worship of Thor, as the julebuk was sometimes equipped with a hammer. The origin of the julebuk is thus a remnant of an ancient Viking custom of sacrificing a buck in the Christmas month as a symbol of the thunder god Thor's bucks, to ensure a good year. However, the origin of the julebuk is also linked to medieval ecclesiastical Christmas plays, which often included a horned devil, drawing certain parallels to the julebuk.


Quite scary when you think about it! Luckily nowadays the Julebuk is simply a unique Christmas decoration