Every year on this day, a vague, blurry memory of old Epiphany day celebrations in Cyprus pops in my mind. It’s a bright, sunny winter morning in Nicosia. I’m about 10 years old, I’m wearing a pretty dress and my little sister, a few years younger and I are going around to everyone at my grandpa’s house where the family was gathered saying Καλημερα τζιε τα Φώτα τζιε την πουλουστρινα πρωτα. ( It’s difficult to translate and won’t make much sense but Good morning, the Epiphany and a gift first).
They would all give us some money as a gift and we’d eat homemade loukoumades (Greek honey soaked dough balls) and then throw some on the roof to keep Kallikantzarous away. I’ve always found the Kallikantzarous folklore fascinating.
(Thank you to my sisters for this, the middle one for getting loukoumades for the family and the youngest for the pictures. I can’t taste them unfortunately but I could imagine how delicious they are).
Kallikantzaroi (goblins) live underground, sawing the world tree so it will fall and destroy the Earth, but when they are about to do so, it’s Christmas day which means they can come to the surface and cause trouble to humans.
On the Epiphany (6 January), the sun starts moving again, and they have to go back and continue sawing. Whilst they were away the world tree has healed itself, because of the magic of Christmas, so they must start working all over again. This happens every year.
In Cyprus we throw loukoumades on the roof tops to keep them away from us on their last day and we sing the infamous Τιτσί τιτσι λουκάνικο, κομμάτι ξεροτήανο, να φάτε τζαι να φύετε. Also it is believed that they are scared of Holy Water and that’s why priests go to each house in the neighbourhood sprinkling Holy water from the Epiphany morning service.
And this is the story of Kallikantzaroi.