From: Greek, Bulgarian, Serbian, Bosnian and Turkish Folklore
Classification: Goblins that walk the Earth during the 12 days of Christmas
Far below the Earth’s surface dwell the ancient dark goblins known as the Kallikantzaros. These beastly black creatures work tirelessly to chop down the World Tree with hopes of collapsing the entire world. The Kallikantzaros work the entire year sawing and chopping at the immense trunk of the world tree, never stopping. The only rest these evil creatures get from the chore of collapsing the Earth is during the 12 days of Christmas.
Between December 25th and January 6th the Kallikantzaros emerge from their dark tunnels and reek havoc on the people of the surface world. This time from the winter solstice for a fortnight during which time the sun ceases its seasonal movement, the Kallikantzaros do everything from mild pranks to murder and torture. Unlike other creatures that prey on people during the holiday season the Kallikantzaros don’t care if you have been good or bad, they’re only motivation is to destroy humanity.
The Kallikantzaros are goblins with ebony black skin and fur. They appear as shadows crossing between the snow covered trees of the country side or the alley ways of cities and towns. They are said to have features reminiscent of animals such as goats legs, tails, tusks, and pointed ears and also come in all sizes, from diminutive to that of a older child. They feast on all manner of smaller animals like frogs, mice, and snails. Their lives spent underground have rendered them blind and they speak with a lisp through their sharp needle like teeth.
Kallikantzaros are creatures of the night and only venture out of their hiding places once the sun goes down. They have a fear of light and fires and a simple way to ward them off is to keep your hearth ablaze all night. Another way to keep them from entering your home is to place a collider on your front porch. The Kallikantzaros cannot count past 2 since the number 3 is a holy number, so they will spend the night trying to count the holes in the collider and never finish before the sun comes up. It was also common for people to paint a black cross on their front doors on Christmas Eve to keep the creatures at bay. It is also rumored that burning old shoes from the previous year would keep them away because of the foul smelling odor.
According to legend, any child born during the twelve days of Christmas was in danger of transforming to a Kallikantzaros during each Christmas season, starting with adulthood. It was believed that the antidote to prevent this transformation was to bind the baby in tresses of garlic or straw, or to singe the child’s toenails. According to another legend, anyone born on a Saturday could see and talk with the Kallikantzaros.
The lore of the Kallikantzaros changes from region to region. In Serbian Christmas traditions, the 12 days of Christmas were previously called the “unbaptized days” and were considered a time when demonic forces of all kinds were believed to be more active and dangerous than usual. People were cautious not to attract their attention, and did not go out late at night. because they imagined the Kallikantzaros as heavy, squat, and ugly creatures who would jump on the person’s back and demand to be carried wherever it wanted. This torture would end only when roosters announced the dawn; at that moment the creature would release its victim and run away.
In Turkish folklore the Kallikantzaros are called Karakoncolos and they appear as small hairy beasts akin to a Sasquatch. At night they hide in the darkest corners of a room or a street and ask passersby simple questions. If you get the questions wrong the Kallikantzaros would kill you. If someone is ever approached and asked to answer these questions from someone in the shadows they can simply answer each question with one simple word, “kara” which is Turkish for black. It was also said in Turkish folklore that the karakoncolos could call people out during the cold Zemheri (coldest winter nights, the dead of winter) nights by imitating voices of loved ones. The victim of the karakoncolos risked freezing to death if he or she could not awake from the charm.
All hope is not lost. On January 6th the Kallikantzaros return to their subterranean world to resume their chore of bringing down the World Tree. Once they arrive back at the great trunk they discover that their past years work has been undone and the tree has healed itself. The Kallikantzaros continue their work once again until Christmas day comes again.
Recently (2014) the Kallikantzaros were featured as the monster of the week on the NBC show Grimm for the Christmas episode. Well, it’s Grimm so I don’t need to say much. Here’s a picture of them from the episode.
Well, that’s that. See you next Monday with another Christmas beasty!