Everyone and their mother knows all about Krampus, the half-goat, half-demon, kid-hating Christmas asshole. He’s been the featured of folklore legends, horror movies, and city-wide festivals, but what if I told you there was another Christmas creature that makes Krampus seem like the perfect babysitter? Meet the Killikantzaros, the armageddon holiday demons.
I don’t mean to be so hard on Krampus, it’s just that the Killikantzaros have their beady little demon eyes on a much bigger prize: the end of the world. The origin of the Killikantzaros comes from Greece, where they’re often described either as gigantic hairy demons with a pair of horse legs and boar tusks, or small black creatures that look an awful lot like tiny Satans. Some descriptions label them as blind, but their disability has never gotten in the way of their favorite hobbies, which include eating frogs and other adorable woodland creatures.
Sure, you might be wondering why the Killikantzaros are a bigger baddasses than Krampus, and here’s why: according to Greek folklore, the Killikantzaros could only make their way to the surface during the twelve days of Christmas, which gave them quite a bit of time to cause trouble in their subterranean habitat. It’s said that the small demons spend their days sawing at the World Tree, a giant tree which connects the terrestrial world with the heavens, keeping them from crashing into the Earth. So in other words, the Killikantzaros spend all year long trying to bring on the apocalypse. Nice guys, they are.
As luck would have it, every time the goblins are just about finished with their destructive work on the World Tree, Christmas dawns and the spell is broken, allowing the holiday goblins to climb to the surface and cause mischief, mayhem, and murder however they see fit. Unfortunately for them, during their twelve day absence from the underworld, the tree manages to heal itself completely, making their entire years-worth of work totally pointless. Still, just like clockwork, as soon as they’re banished back to hell, the Killikantzaros begin their work to destroy the balance all over again.
Much of this legend may have roots in what the Serbian’s called the “unbaptized days”, when nefarious demonic forces were thought to be more enraged and dangerous than the rest of the year. On these days, believers were more careful about their surroundings, not leaving their homes at night for fear of attracting the attention of the demons, referred to as a karakondžula. If one of these creatures discovered a person outside after the sun had set on an unbaptized day, the demon would leap onto the unfortunate persons make, making them it’s slave until the roosters’ crow. Nothing like a Christmas possession to really kick off the advent calendar.
Fortunately there are ways to protect ourselves when the Killikantzaros do come to the surface, they’re just, well, pretty weird.
One method to ward off the holiday goblins involves tossing a pair of old, smelly shoes onto a burning fire. The stink of aged sweat and burning soles is said to repel the creatures, probably because they’re so sick of the stink of the underworld.
Another ingenious Christmas demon repellant tasks you with leaving a colander on your doorstep at night. According to the legends, the Killikantzaros will become so obsessed with counting the holes in the colander, that they’ll totally forget that he was going to murder you.
Unfortunately, if you have a child who was born during the twelve days of Christmas, he or she might be at risk of turning into a Killikantzaros, which is a fate even worse than having a birthday so close to Christmas (you totally get screwed on presents). In order to protect your holiday child you must bind them in a wrap made of straw and garlic, and for extra protection, you would singe the toenails of the child. The smell of burning toenails would apparently send the demons running in the opposite direction.
Thankfully, no matter what kind of trouble the Killikantzaros decide to sow during their twelve days of freedom, they’re destined to become trapped one gain, bound in an eternal loop of hard work and chaos, never actually managing to bring about the apocalypse.. at least so far. Maybe we should stock up on old shoes and colanders, just in case.