Scandinavian puppet. A living tradition up to and through the 19th century, the Scandinavian Julegeita (“Christmas Goat”) was part of the traditional masquerades of the winter solstice celebrated in Nordic countries. In the early 10th century, the Byzantine emperor, Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus, described how his Nordic legionnaires danced in a ring around two men dressed in goatskins and masks representing goats.
Goat costumes are known all over Europe, but in Norway and the western parts of Sweden one of the figures of these winter festivities developed into a puppet, the Julegeita. The figure consisted of a goat head made of wood or other materials, set on a pole, whose jaw could open and close since it was articulated with metal springs and pulled by strings. The jaw might also be equipped with a flint so that it made sparks when the jaw slammed shut. The grotesque head could move up and down, and even reach as high as the ceiling where it could be made to bite into the beams. The goatskin, which at first represented the body of the animal, was eventually used essentially to hide the manipulator.