Christmas In Ritual & Tradition - online book

The Observance Of Christmas In Various Lands And Ages.

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THE TWELVE DAYS
Kallikantxaroi at this purification is expressed in the following lines :—
" Quick, begone ! wc must begone, Here comes the pot-bellied priest, With his censer in his hand And his sprinkling-vessel too ; He has purified the streams And he has polluted us."
Besides this ecclesiastical purification there are various Christian precautions against the Kallikantzaroie.g., to mark the house-door with a black cross on Christmas Eve, the burning of incense and the invocation of the Trinity—and a number of other means of aversion : the lighting of the Yule log, the burning of some­thing that smells strong, and—perhaps as a peace-offering— the hanging of pork-bones, sweetmeats, or sausages in the chimney.
Just as men are sometimes believed to become vampires temporarily during their lifetime, so, according to one stream of tradition, do living men become Kallikantzaroi. In Greece children born at Christmas are thought likely to have this objec­tionable characteristic as a punishment for their mothers' sin in bearing them at a time sacred to the Mother of God. In Mace­donia people who have a " light " guardian angel undergo the hideous transformation.
Many attempts have been made to account for the Kalli­kantzaroi. Perhaps the most plausible explanation of the outward form, at least, of the uncanny creatures, is the theory connecting them with the masquerades that formed part of the winter festival of Dionysus and are still to be found in Greece at Christmastidc. The hideous bestial shapes, the noise and riot, may well have seemed demoniacal to simple people slightly " elevated," perhaps, by Christmas feasting, while the human nature of the maskers was not altogether forgotten.7i Another theory of an even more prosaic character has been propounded—"that the Kallikant­zaroi are nothing more than established nightmares, limited like indigestion to the twelve days of feasting. This view is
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