Kallikantzaroi: Naughty Nocturnal Goblins Emerge From Underground Only During Twelve Days Of Christmas

A. Sutherland  - AncientPages.com - The Kallikantzaroi are naughty and sometimes evil underground goblins who emerge during the 12 days of Christmas and then disappear into the Earth on the eve of the Epiphany.

Kallikantzaroi: Naughty Nocturnal Goblins Emerge From Underground Only During Twelve Days Of Christmas

The Kallikantzaroi do not come with Christmas gifts. Instead, they come with trouble. Credit: Adobe Stock - regaliegadget

In the folklore of Greece, Bulgaria, Serbia, Turkey, and Bosnia, they are responsible for many bad things that happen to people during the Christmas time between Christ's birthday and Epiphany on January 6.

These creatures do not come with Christmas gifts. Instead, they appear to trouble people because these demonic spirits are mischievous, tricky, and even dangerous. The Greeks say confusing the Twelve Days of Christmas with the Twelve Days of Hell wouldn't be hard.

No one ever is waiting for the Kallikantzaroi's coming, but they always come.

"Of all supernatural Christmas visitors, the most vividly realized and believed in at the present day are probably the Greek Kallikantzaroi or Karkantzaroi. They are the terror of the Greek peasant during the Twelve Days; in the soil of his imagination, they flourish luxuriantly, and to him [peasant], they are a very real and living nuisance," Clement A. Miles writes in his book Christmas in Ritual and Tradition, Christian and Pagan.

People believe that they usually appear when darkness falls. Therefore, they try to use Christian precautions to protect themselves by staying indoors, scratching a cross on their doors on Christmas Eve, burning incense, or leaving the fireplace lit all night to scare the goblins away.

Kallikantzaroi With Huge Heads And Blood-Red Tongues Hanging Out

They are half-human, half-animal monsters, black, hairy, with huge heads, glaring red eyes, goats' or asses' ears, blood-red tongues always hanging out, ferocious tusks, monkeys' arms, and long curved nails, and the legs of an ass or goat, with cloven hooves.

Their size also varies; most of them are reported as small, but a few can be several meters tall.

Why Did The Kallikantzaroi Appear?

Among different theories, one suggests that these goblins are linked with the masquerades associated with the winter festival of Dionysus that is still to be celebrated in Greece. Perhaps the creatures are ordinary people in bizarre costumes and masks. However, this does not match with the Kallikantzaroi described as – naked.

Some have suggested the creatures are products of the imagination of the so-called 'elevated' people participating in Christmas feasting. Could they be nightmares, perhaps?

Double Mission Of Kallikantzaroi

It is believed that mythical, goblin-like kallikantzaroi dwell underground, sawing the world tree to die, along with the Earth finally.

In Norse mythology, Nidhogg is also gnawing at the root of the sacred tree Yggdrasil, and so do other creatures like four stags Dain, Duneyr, Durathror, and Dvalin, which chew Yggdrasil's leaves and branches.

None of them is a friend of the tree, and all don't wish it well.

Kallikantzaroi has a similar goal; however, according to folklore, when they are about to see the final part, Christmas comes and interrupts their evil work around the world tree. They forget the tree, come up to the surface,  and bring trouble to mortals.

Kallikantzaroi: Naughty Nocturnal Goblins Emerge From Underground Only During Twelve Days Of Christmas

Kallikantzaroi- Greek folklore: a little hairy creature with a cow tail and hooves. Credit: Katolophyromai - CC BY-SA 4.0

Their annoying deeds are mentioned in John Tomkinson's book "Haunted Greece: Nymphs, Vampires and other Exotika," He describes the goblins' disastrous 12-day-long Christmas mission on Earth:

"The Kallikantzaroi cause mischief, they intimidate people, urinate in flowerbeds, spoil food, tip things over, and break furniture.

They also urinate on fire, and it would never be possible to light a fire in that place again and annoy people by "trampling all who got in their way, breaking into mills, eating some of the flour and fouling the rest by defecating on it. In houses, they would break furniture, eat and drink the food, and defecate all over the place… and even try to kill people by choking them in their beds at night by sitting on their chests, leaving them half suffocated and nearly dead with fright.

In Crete, they were believed to carry cradles of thorns on their backs into which they would put babies they had stolen, to carry them back to their caves and drink their blood."

Especially in Greece, 'kallikantzaros' describe several short, ugly, and usually malicious beings in folklore.

Updated on December 1, 2023

Written by – A. Sutherland  - AncientPages.com Senior Staff Writer

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