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Who says Santa Claus is the only one trying to come down your chimney during the festive season? According to Greek mythology, a gaggle of goblin-like spirits are trying to slide into homes -- and instead of presents they are intent on leaving a trail of destruction. That is if you believe in the Kallikantzaroi.

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AFP Christmas in Greece looks a little different. And the unflattering description suits their bawdy antics: "The Kallikantzaroi cause mischief, they intimidate people, urinate in flowerbeds, spoil food, tip things over and break furniture," Tomkinson said. Opinions differ on what they look like, both because of active imaginations and Greece's once-isolated regions, separated by the Hellenic nation's many mountains and vast seas. As a result, some say the Kallikantzaroi resemble humans with dark complexions, ugly, very tall beings that sport iron clogs.

Others say they're short and swarthy, with red eyes, cleft hooves, monkeys' arms, and hair-covered bodies. There's another school of thought which describes them as lame, squinting and stupid. They survive on a diet of worms, frogs and snakes.

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For most of the year the Kallikantzaroi live in the bowels of the earth, but they creep out during the Twelve Days of Christmas, venturing out under the cover of night. Please include your name and your city and country of residence. The uninvited festive guests are said to sneak into homes through the chimney or, more boldly, by using the front door.

Wardle had just suspended a huge branch of mistletoe, and, if the story is to be believed, the gallant My Pickwick had led the venerable Mrs Wardle, the mother of the host, beneath the mystic branch, and saluted her with all courtesy and decorum.

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The old lady submitted to this piece of practical politeness with all the dignity which befitted so important and serious a solemnity; but the younger ladies screamed, and struggled, and ran into corners, and threatened and remonstrated, and did everything but leave the room; when all at once they found it useless to resist any longer, and submitted to be kissed with good grace.

When they were all tired of blind man's buff, snap dragon, and other boisterous games, they sat down by the huge fire of blazing logs to enjoy a mighty bowl of wassail, in which the hot apples were hissing and bubbling with a rich look and a jolly sound that were perfectly irresistible. Wardle "everybody sits down with us on Christmas eve - servants and all - and here we wait until the clock strikes twelve to usher Christmas in, and we beguile the time with forfeits and old stories. Does it? It was a Christmas eve too, and I remember that on that night he told us the story about the goblins that carried away old Gabriel Grub.

Haven't you heard ever since you were a child that he was carried away by goblins, and don't you know he was? So, ladies and gentlemen, a clear stage and no favour for Mr Wardle and the goblins. It by no means follows that because a man is a sexton and constantly Surrounded by emblems of mortality, therefore, he should be a morose and a melancholy man; undertakers are amongst the merriest fellows in the world, and mutes, when off duty, will crack jokes and sing comic ditties that would make a bishop dance, in spite of his dignity.

But notwithstanding these precedents to the contrary, Gabriel Grub was an ill-conditioned, cross-grained, surly fellow. He was short, cadaverous and withered. His throat, chin, and eyebrows, so posted with white hairs, and so gnarled with veins, and puckered skin, that he looked, from his breast upwards, like some old root in a fall of snow.

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He was invariably clothed in a suit of rusty black, and looked as if the garments had been stolen from the corpse of some suicide; he consorted with nobody but himself and an old wicker-bottle, which he invariably carried in a huge breast pocket. He eyed each merry face as it passed with such a deep scowl of malice and ill-humour, as it was difficult to meet, without feeling something the worse for.

A little before twilight one Christmas eve, Gabriel shouldered his spade, lighted his lantern, and betook himself towards the old churchyard, for he had got a grave to finish by next morning, and feeling very low, he thought it might raise his spirits, perhaps, if he went on with his work at once. As he went his way up the ancient street, he saw the cheerful light of the blazing fires gleam through the old casements, and heard the loud laugh and the cheerful shouts of those who were assembled around them; he marked the bustling preparations for the next day's cheer, and smelt the numerous savoury odours consequent there from, as they steamed.

All this was gall and wormwood to the heart of Gabriel Grub; and when groups of children bounded out of the houses, tripped across the road and were met, before they could knock at the opposite door, by half-a-dozen curly-headed little rascals who crowded round them as they flocked upstairs to spend the evening in their Christmas games, Gabriel smiled grimly, and clutched the handle of his spade with a firmer grasp as he thought of measles, scarlet fever, thrush, whooping cough, and a good many other sources of consolation besides.

In this happy frame of mind Gabriel strode along, returning a short sullen growl to the good humoured greetings of such of his neighbours as now and then passed him, until he turned into the dark lane which led to the churchyard. Now, Gabriel had been looking forward to reaching the dark lane, because it was, generally speaking, a nice, gloomy, mournful place, into which the towns-people did not much care to go, except in broad daylight and when the sun was shining; consequently, he was not a little indignant to hear a young urchin roaring out some jolly song about a merry Christmas in this very sanctuary, which had been called Coffin Lane ever since the days of the old abbey and the time of the shaven-headed monks.

As Gabriel walked on, and the voice drew nearer, he found it proceeded from a small boy who was hurrying along to join one of the little parties in the old street, and who, partly to keep himself company, and partly to prepare himself for the occasion, was shouting out the song at the highest pitch of his lungs. So Gabriel waited until the boy came up, and then threatened him with a severe drubbing, if he did not at once leave off making such a noise.

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And as the boy hurried away with this angry admonition ringing in his ear, Gabriel Grub chuckled very heartily to himself, and entered the churchyard, locking the gate behind him. He took off his coat, put down his lantern, and getting into the unfinished grave, worked at it for an hour or two with right good will.

But the earth was hardened with the frost, and it was no very easy matter to break it up and shovel it out; and although there was a moon, it was a very young one, and shed little light upon the grave, which was in the shadow of the church. At any other time these obstacles would have made Gabriel Grub very moody and miserable; but he was so well pleased with having stopped the small boy's singing, that he took little heed of the scanty progress he had made, and looked down into the grave when he had finished work for the night with grim satisfaction, murmuring, as he gathered up his things: [B] "Brave lodgings for one - brave lodgings for one - A few feet of cold earth when life is done; A stone at the head, a stone at the feet, A rich juicy meal for the worms to eat!

Rank grass overhead and damp clay around, Brave lodgings for one, there, in holy ground! A Christmas box! Gabriel paused in some alarm, in the act of raising the wicker bottle to his lips, and looked around. The bottom of the oldest grave about him was not more still and quiet than the churchyard in the pale moonlight.

The cold hoar frost glistened on the tombstones, and sparkled like rows of gems among the stone carvings of the old church. The snow lay hard and crisp upon the ground, and spread over the thickly-strewn mounds of earth, so wide and smooth a cover that it seemed as if the corpses lay there hidden only by their winding sheets. Not the faintest rustle broke the profound tranquillity of the solemn scene. Sound itself appeared to be frozen up, all was so cold, and still. Seated on an upright tombstone close to him was a strange unearthly figure, whom Gabriel felt at once was no being of this world.

His long fantastic legs, which might have reached the ground, were cocked up, and crossed after a quaint fantastic fashion; his sinewy arms were bare; and his hands rested on his knees. On his short round body he wore a close covering, ornamented with small slashes; a short cloak dangled at his back; the collar was cut into curious peaks, which served the goblin in lieu of ruff or neckerchief; and his shoes curled up at his toes into long points.

On his head he wore a broad-brimmed sugar-loaf hat, garnished with a single feather. The hat was covered with the white frost; and the goblin looked as if he had sat on the same tombstone very comfortably for two or three hundred years. Seated on an upright tombstone close to him was a strange, unearthly figure. He was sitting perfectly still, grinning at Gabriel Grubb with such a grin as only a goblin could call up.

Gabriel Grubb!

The Goblins' Christmas by Elizabeth Anderson

Who makes graves at a time when other men are merry, and takes a pleasure in it? We know the man who struck the boy in the envious malice of his heart because the boy could be merry and he could not. As the goblin laughed he suddenly darted toward Gabriel, laid his hand upon his collar, and sank with him through the earth. And when he had had time to fetch his breath he found himself in what appeared to be a large cavern, surrounded on all sides by goblins ugly and grim.

As the goblin said this a cloud rolled gradually away and disclosed a small and scantily furnished but neat apartment. Little children were gathered round a bright fire, clinging to their mother's gown, or gamboling round her chair.

A frugal meal was spread upon the table and an elbow-chair was placed near the fire. Soon the father entered and the children ran to meet him. As he sat down to his meal the mother sat by his side and all seemed happiness and comfort. Many a time the cloud went and came, and many a lesson it taught to Gabriel Grubb. He saw that men who worked hard and earned their scanty bread were cheerful and happy.

And he came to the conclusion it was a very respectable sort of a world after all. No sooner had he formed it than the cloud closed over the last picture seemed to settle on his senses and lull him to repose. One by one the goblins faded from his sight, and as the last one disappeared he sank to sleep.

The day had broken when he awoke, and found himself lying on the flat gravestone, with the wicker-bottle empty by his side. He got on his feet as well as he could, and brushing the frost off his coat, turned his face toward the town. But he was an altered man, he had learned lessons of gentleness and good-nature by his strange adventures in the goblin's cavern. The Christmas Goblins In an old abbey town, a long, long while ago there officiated as sexton and gravedigger in the churchyard one Gabriel Grubb. At any other time this would have made Gabriel very miserable, but he was so pleased at having stopped the small boy's singing that he took little heed of the scanty progress he had made when he had finished work for the night, and looked down into the grave with grim satisfaction, murmuring as he gathered up his things: "Brave lodgings for one, brave lodgings for one, A few feet of cold earth when life is done.

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The invisible chorus replied, "Gabriel Grubb! The sexton gasped for breath. Gabriel murmured something about its being very pretty. Charles Dickens. A Christmas Carol. A Message from the Sea.

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