||It has been suggested that Karakoncolos be merged into this article. (Discuss) Proposed since October 2013.|
Kallikantzaroi (Greek: Καλλικάντζαρος; sing. Kallikantzaros) are malevolent goblins in Greek folk tradition. They dwell underground but come to the surface during the twelve days of Christmas, from 25 December to 6 January (from the winter solstice for a fortnight during which time the sun ceases its seasonal movement).
Amongst other proposed etymologies for the name, there is speculation that it may possibly derive from "kalos-kentauros, or "beautiful centaur", although the theory has met with considerable opposition.
The Kallikantzaroi and the World Tree
It is believed that Kallikantzaroi stay underground sawing the World tree, so that it will collapse, along with Earth. However, when they are about to saw the final part, Christmas dawns and they are able to come to the surface. They forget the Tree and come to bring trouble to mortals.
Finally, on the Epiphany (6 January), the sun starts moving again, and they must go underground again to continue their sawing. They see that during their absence the World tree has healed itself, so they must start working all over again. This happens every year.
There is no standard appearance of Kallikantzaroi, there are regional differences on their appearance. Some Greeks have imagined them with some animal parts, like hairy bodies, horse legs, or boar tusks, sometimes enormous, other times diminutive. Others see them as humans of small size smelling horribly. They are predominantly male, often with protruding sex characteristics. Many Greeks have imagined them as tall, black, hairy, with burning red eyes, goats' or donkeys' ears, monkeys' arms, tongues that hang and heads that are huge.  Nonetheless, the most common belief is that they are small, black creatures, humanoid apart from their long black tails. Their shape resembles that of a little, black devil. They are, also, mostly blind, speak with a lisp and love to eat frogs, worms  and other small creatures.
The Kallikantzaroi are creatures of the night. There were many ways people could protect themselves during the days when the Kallikantzaroi were loose. They could leave a colander on their doorstep to trick the visiting Kallikantzaros. Since he could not count above 2 (3 is a holy number and by pronouncing it he would kill himself,) the Kalikantzaros would sit at the doorstep counting, 1, 2... 1, 2... each hole of the colander, all night, until the sun rose and he was forced to hide. Another method of protection was to leave the fire burning in the fireplace, all night, so that they cannot enter through there. In some areas, they would burn the Yule log, a large piece of wood, for the duration of the twelve days. And in other areas, people would throw smelly shoes in the fire, the stink repulsing the Kallikantzaroi and forcing them to stay away. Yet other ways to keep them away were to mark the door with a black cross on Christmas Eve and burn incense.
Legend has it that any child born during the twelve days of Christmas was in danger of transforming to a Kallikantzaros for each Christmas season, starting with adulthood. The antidote: Binding the baby in tresses of garlic or straw, or singeing the child's toenails. In another legend, anyone born on a Saturday can see and talk with the Kallikantzaroi. 
One particularity that sets the Kallikantzaroi apart from all other goblins/creatures of the Underworld is that they appear on Earth for only twelve days out of the whole year. Their short duration on earth, as well as the fact that they were not considered purely malevolent creatures but rather impish and stupid, have led to a number of theories about their creation. One such theory connects them to the masquerades of the ancient Roman winter festivals of Bacchus and later of Dionysos, in Athens, Greece. During the drunken, orgiastic parts of the festivals, maskers, hidden under costumes in bestial shapes, yet still appearing humanoid, may have made an exceptional impression on the minds of simple folk who were intoxicated.
In Greek, Kallikantzaros is also used for every short, ugly and usually mischievous being. If not used for the abovementioned creatures, it seems to express the collective sense for the Irish word leprechaun and the English words gnome and goblin.
- Lawson, John Cuthbert (1910). Modern Greek Folklore and Ancient Greek Religion. Cambridge. p. 194.
- Carlo Ginzburg (14 June 2004). Ecstasies: Deciphering the Witches' Sabbath. University of Chicago Press. p. 169. ISBN 978-0-226-29693-7. "According to one etymological conjecture that has met with many objections, the term kallikantzaros derives from kalos-kentauros (beautiful centaur)."
- Miles, Clement A. (2008). Christmas in Ritual and Tradition, Christian and Pagan. USA: Zhingoora Books. p. 244. ISBN 978-1434473769.
- Μανδηλαρἀς, Φἰλιππος (2005). Ιστοριες με Καλικἀντζαρους (in Modern Greek). Εκδὀσεις Πατἀκης. p. 11. ISBN 960-16-1742-6. Retrieved 27 October 2013.
- Miles 2008, p. 245.
- Μανδηλαρἀς 2005, p. 20.
- Miles 2008, p. 245.