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December 17, 2007

Santa's little helpers???

Though Christmas trees are becoming more common in the Greek home at Christmas, there is one festive symbol that remains prevalent.

This is a shallow wooden bowl, with a wire across the top. From the wire hangs a wooden cross, wrapped with a Basil sprig. The sprig is kept alive and fresh by a small amount of water in the bowl. Each day someone, usually the mother of the family, carries the bowl through the house, dips the holy cross into the water, and sprinkles water in each room. This daily ritual is performed in the hope of keeping the Killantsaroi away.

Kallikantzaros The Killantsaroi, similar to goblins or sprites, are mischievous 'bad spirits'.  They hail from the centre of the earth and choose the 12 days of Christmas (dodekaimera) to meddle. The Killantsaroi enter homes by sneaking down the chimney - leading to the tradition of burning a fire in the hearth day and night during the 12 days - to ward off the little creatures, or at least give them a rather painful behind to think about.

Though more of a nuisance than evil, these cheeky spirits create Christmas chaos by extinguishing fires, braiding horses tails (though some might find this quite helpful), sour the milk, and rather revoltingly, urinate on the Christmas food unless it's covered up.

So, now the small chore of sprinkling water into each room every day, doesn't seem so bad, does it?!

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