Folktale Friday: Kallikantzaroi (Christmas Crashing Goblins)

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Kallikantzaroi are destructive Greek Goblins who invade vulnerable homes on Christmas night and proceed to prank, torment and beat-up the occupants for 12 nights straight.

Kallinkantzaroi FAQs

How do I know I’m looking at a Kallikantzaros?

Firstly, well done on the correct singular noun formation!

Thank you.

Kallikantzaroi are typically depicted as short, shaggy, black-furred beasties, with fiery red eyes and cloven hooves. Some descriptions also mention donkey ears, red lips, monkey arms and, on occasion, tusks.

Artist’s depiction. Obviously.
source: ΟΕΔΒ 1961 – Αναγνωστικό 4ης Δημοτικού, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=30341081

What is their threat level?

If you’re a Christmas ham: high

If you’re a piece of furniture: high.

If you’re an unfortunate homeowner: medium to high.

While they don’t outright kill, once Kallikantzaroi have gorged themselves on meat and “befouled” the remaining food and drink, they will play pranks and –

run wildly to and fro…crushing those who cross their path

Miles, 1902

They will also destroy home furnishings and mercilessly prank the homeowners until sunrise, at which point they will return to their underground hovel to rest before emerging at sunset to repeat the cycle of torment until the 6th of January.

Photo by Matt Artz on Unsplash

Why?

Apparently, they’re not that keen on humanity. So much so that, when they’re not tormenting tenants, they’re underground busily sawing through the Tree of Life in an attempt to bring about the end of the world.

By the time Christmas rolls around, they’ve almost completed their task and, perhaps to celebrate, they down tools and wreak a little holiday havoc.

Photo by Simon Berger on Unsplash

This break gives the Tree of Life the chance to repair itself so that when the Kallikantzaroi return to finish their work they have to start the whole process over from scratch.

How very cyclical.

Quite.

How does one avoid having their Christmas ruined by the Kallikantzaroi?

Preparation.

Kallikantzaroi enter homes via doors and chimneys, so marking a black cross on your front door, burning incense and invoking the Holy Trinity can keep them out. Keeping the Yule log burning all season will also good disuade them from entering.

Photo by alex Lu00e1zaro on Pexels.com

A further method to repell them is to hang the smelliest meats you can find in your chimney (sweetmeats, pork bones and sausages are prefered). Apparently, the hungry hobgoblins view this as a “peace offering”.

What if it’s too late for any of that?

Unfortunately, much like a bad hangover, once you’ve been targeted by Kallikantzaroi the only thing you can do is ride it out.

Photo by CHUTTERSNAP on Unsplash

When the sun rises on the Epiphany (January 6th), they will return to their underground home for the rest of the year and, like a distant and difficult relative, you won’t have to deal with them again until next Christmas.

So, what have we learnt?

Objectively the worst houseguests ever, Kallikantzaroi are destructive, violent little devils that mercilessly terrorise their unwilling hosts for 12 nights in a row. On the plus side, if you survive your brush with them, every Christmas from that point on is going to be a good one. Even if you’re stuck hosting the most “difficult” and “eccentric” members of your family.

Photo by Jameel Hassan on Pexels.com

RESOURCES AND FURTHER READING:

Christmas in Ritual and Tradition, Christian and Pagan, by Clement A. Miles, 1902,

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kallikantzaros#:~:text=The%20term%20kallikantzaros%20is%20speculated,koncolos%20%22bloodsucker%2C%20werewolf%22.

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