Kallikantzaroi: The True Story of the Legend of the Mythical Christmas Goblin

The kallikantzaroi is one creature that has not gotten its own Christmas special to the best of my knowledge. What is a kallikantzaroi? The most perfect description that comes to mind is that of Christmas goblin. Of course, goblins are more in line with Halloween and in most media representations goblins appear to be little creatures not unlike the little dancing gremlin dude who spoke in backwards talk to Agent Dale Cooper. Some reports follow this line of inquiry, but I prefer the versions that state that these Christmas goblins, these kallikantzaroi, are not small at all; that they are, in fact, quite huge. Bigger even than the empty infinite space between Republicans’ ears.

Funny thing about the kallikantzaroi. Christmas babies are usually considered little miracles whose only concern in life is that their birthday and Christmas presents will be combined and so they get the fuzzy end of the lollipop. A Christmas baby for the Greeks was concerned about much more than doubling up the gift haul. A baby born on Christmas meant that conception occurred around March 25. March 25 is the Day of Annunciation or when the angel appeared to the Virgin Mary to inform her she would be bearing Jesus. So far, so good. Except that there was the very distinct danger that a child born on Christmas could become a kallikantzaroi.

No small Halloween goblins, they, the kallikantzaroi were said to be so big that if they did have private parts they would bounce over rooftops. The head of a kallikantzaroi was black as the heart of Dick Cheney and as hairy as the soul of Robin Williams. And much like Robert Downey, Jr., they always seemed to have bloodshot eyes. To complete the picture, imagine fingernails as long as Barbra Streisand’s nose. And that’s about enough of that, yes?

For the greater part of the year, the kallikantzaroi spent most of their time in a kind of subterranean limbo chopping away at a tree that only has the job of holding up the entire world. There must be something about the spirit of Christmas that drives the kallikantzaroi crazy mad because during the 12 Days of Christmas these goblins rise above the surface of the Earth. Oddly, this takes place just about the time that they are almost about to slice through that tree and it is this nearly fortnight-long celebration of the birth of Christ that actually renews the tree.  This does not make the kallikantzaroi happy, as you can imagine. No, no. Not at all. Flushed with anger that makes them appear blackish-red, the kallikantzaroi rise to the surface as the Greeks are bearing gifts. Apparently, the kallikantzaroi do not have private parts that bounce against rooftops and so practice neither procreation nor reincarnation but the continuation of the species must continue so, as Jeff Goldblum’s Dr. Malcom hesitantly asserts in Jurassic Park, life finds a way. And the way that the kallikantzaroi find to continue life is through a mysterious transformation of Christmas babies into Christmas goblins. From little babes in swaddling clothes to kallikantzaroi.

In what can only be described as the most virulently ironic juxtaposition of Christmas mythology imaginable, the way that the kallikantzaroi enter most houses is…through the chimney! Can you imagine being a young Greek child staying up late in hopes of seeing Santa Claus and instead this huge creature with the black face and long fingernails appears? How a creature as big as a house actually makes it down the chimney and into the house is a bit of a mystery, but no more so than how Santa makes it down, I suppose. Then there’s always the fact that Santa Claus isn’t really a Greek thing anyway, so that lovely sinister escapade probably never did take place. Good thing, too.

The story of what happens when the kallikantzaroi enter the house is not pretty. Suffice to say that blood spews and intestines get flung around the mantle and, well, it’s pretty much just another night at the Manson family farm or Chanukah at the Fox News family penthouse. The Greeks found a way to stem the tide of the kallikantzaroi, however. One way is to simply hang the jaw of a slaughtered pig somewhere in the house. Another way takes advantage of the fact that the kallikantzaroi are possessed of their own peculiar form of Kryptonite. These Christmas goblins apparently are not capable of trucking with the acrid aroma of burning shoes. A shoe on the barbie keeps the kallikantzaroi away.

The manner in which a Christmas baby was protected against turning into a kallikantzaroi is nearly as grotesque as what the goblins would do if they made it down the chimney. Extreme steps had to be taken to protect the baby unfortunate enough to be born on the Day of Annunciation. The least macabre part is that they were strapped down with garlic cloves tied together. The worst part is that their toenails had to be singed in order to obstruct their turning into a kallikantzaroi.

And so, young Christians, if you are wise you will not bring your baby home for the holidays the day he is born, but stay at the hospital and for heaven’s sake make sure there is no chimney anywhere near the maternity ward else the seed of your Annunciation Day conception spend his time from here to eternity vainly chopping at the tree that holds the world together.