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Greek Christmas Customs & Traditions: Kallikantzaroi Christmas Goblins

Kallikantzaroi-Greek Christmas goblins
Kallikantzaroi-Greek Christmas goblins

Many of the same customs and  traditions, as well as folklore, are practiced and believed, all over the World, no matter where they originated from.

Through the years, they have been tweaked a bit here and altered a bit there, bits added, and bits taken away.

Basically, they are the same story, told in another country, another age, another religion, another belief.

The Greek Kallikantzaroi, is one such story.

Kallikantzaroi, plural  (Kallikantzaros singular) are mischievous Greek goblins , elves or gnomes, that appear during the twelve days of Christmas, from the end of December until Epiphany, January sixth.

These twelve days are also known as the winter solstice, and, in medieval times, yule or yuletide.


Kallikantzaros-Greek Christmas goblin
Kallikantzaros-Greek Christmas goblin


Kallikantzaroi are said to be small, black and male, mostly blind, with long black tails.

They speak with a lisp and eat small creatures, such as, worms, snails and frogs.

They only come out at night, and, are afraid of the sun, fire and holy water.

The rest of the year, they live at the centre of the Earth, where, they spend their time, chopping down The World Tree, or The Tree Of Life, that holds up the World, using a large saw.


Kallikantzaroi, cutting down The World Tree
Kallikantzaroi, cutting down The World Tree

At the beginning of the twelve days of Christmas, also the winter solstice, when the sun will not move again, until, sixth of January, Kallikantzaroi come up to the surface of the Earth, where, they cause all sorts of trouble and mischief.

Rather than being evil, they are considered impish and stupid.

They come out of hiding at night, to enter houses, anyway they can, through windows, down chimneys, through keyholes, and any cracks that they may find, in walls and around doors.

Once inside they cause havoc.




Mischievous Kallinkantzaroi
Mischievous Kallinkantzaroi




It is said, that if you leave a colander on your doorstep, at night, the Kallikantzaroi, who can only count to two, and consider the number three holy, and will kill themselves, before pronouncing it, will spend all night, counting the holes.

They only ever reach the number two, and start again, so as not to utter the word; three!

At sunrise, they disappear.

Another form of protection, is to mark your door with a black cross, on Christmas Eve.
Yet another, is to burn a smelly shoe on the fire, the foul smell will keep them away!

Now here is an interesting bit:

To stop the kallikantzaroi from coming down the chimney, a very large log is found and burnt for twelve days, until the sixth of January, when the Kallikantzaroi will go back to the centre of the Earth.

This ties in with the Norse tradition of Yuletide, the yule log, burnt for the the duration of the winter solstice, until the sun is on the move again!

Yule log
Yule log

In Greek folklore, the kallikantzaroi, disappear on the sixth of January, Epiphany, when Greek priests, go through all the houses, blessing them, with holy water, splashed around with a bunch of fresh basil.

Greek priest, Epiphany
Greek priest, Epiphany


As you can see, in some cultures, the goblins, or kallikantzaroi, disappear because of  the movement of the sun on the sixth of January,(Remember, they don't like the sun) or, as in Greece, on the same day, Epiphany, when holy water, which they are afraid of, is being splashed around.

I strongly suspect, these kallikantzaroi, are the same goblins, or elves, that help Santa Claus at Christmas, and what about the mischievous little leprechauns, of Irish folklore?
Are they all connected?   

I shall have to look into that!


Christmas elves
Christmas elves

By the way, when the Kallikantzaroi, arrive back, at the centre of the Earth, they find that The World Tree, has fully grown again!


The World Tree
The World Tree

Out comes their large saw, and they start to chop it down, all over again.

Until next year!

My Amazon Greek Christmas picks for you:

Greek Christmas Ornaments
Greek Christmas Ornaments


More wonderful Greek Christmas Customs & Traditions:

Greek Christmas Traditions: Sweets, kourabiedes, Melomakarona & More.

Top Ten Greek New Year's Customs and Traditions

Greek Christmas Customs & Traditions: Christmas Boat (Karavaki)


Greek Christmas traditions: Kalanda: Carol singing

Greek Christmas Customs & Traditions: Vasilopita, Greek New Year's Cake



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