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Published December 21, 2010, 12:00 AM

Lind: A note about a goat

Somehow, the idea of being scared witless during Christmas doesn’t square with this joyous holiday. Yet, in Norway, that was the case for kids years ago. Kay Syvrud, Hawley, Minn., wonders how many remember the old Norwegian custom of Julebukking.

By: Bob Lind, INFORUM

Somehow, the idea of being scared witless during Christmas doesn’t square with this joyous holiday. Yet, in Norway, that was the case for kids years ago.

Kay Syvrud, Hawley, Minn., wonders how many remember the old Norwegian custom of Julebukking.

It is pronounced “yool-eh-buh-king” and means “Christmas goat.”

Christmas goat? Well, yes, because the custom in old Norway was to put on a goat mask, visit friends and not reveal who you were. You wouldn’t say a word, a European custom called “Christmas mumming.” Finally, when the people guessed who you were, everyone would be treated to cookies or other baked goods, along with coffee, wine or homemade ale.

This occurred between Dec. 25 and the new year, Kay says.

Norwegian immigrants to the United States brought the custom with them.

Kay is reading a book about Norwegian Christmas customs titled “Keeping Christmas.”

Through it she learned that Julebukkers in the late 1800s were so fiercely disguised in goat (and sometimes cow) masks, which included real horns, that children were terrified of them, “probably,” Kay says, “because before they (the Julebukkers) came tramping into the homes, they would stomp on porches and knock on windows.

“In those days, children were told to behave themselves or ‘the Julebok will get you,’ ” and “apparently being gotten by a Julebok was as bad as it got,” Kay says.

She went Julebukking, too, in the early 1950s with her cousin and his teenage friends. “We spent all night visiting farm homes and being guessed and treated by the farm families. Julebukking was raised to an art form by the teenagers in the Rollag (Minn.) area, and I have never had such fun.”

But Neighbors suspects this group didn’t scare the daylights out of people.

At any rate, whether you go Julebukking or not, may you have a most merry and blessed Christmas, neighbor.


If you have an item of interest for this column, mail it to Neighbors, The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107 or fax it to 241-5487

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