St. Nicholas celebration in Romania: official start of holiday season and gifts in boots
Orthodox Romanians celebrate St. Nicholas (Sfantul Nicolae) on December 6 (this Friday), and the holiday has exceeded its religious significance. It is one of the most eagerly awaited holidays of the year by children, who receive small gifts on this occasion. It's also the official marker for the beginning of the holiday season.
It is also the name day for around 800,000 Romanians who celebrate their name day on this occasion.
Over 513,000 of these people are men, named after St. Nicholas - Nicolae for men, while the rest are women, named Nicoleta or Nicola.
Saint Nicholas is the spiritual patron of Greece, Russia and of many other cities in Eastern Europe. According to the Romanian tradition, St. Nicholas comes with gifts on the night between December 5 and December 6. He places the gifts in everyone’s recently polished boots, except for those who have been naughty - they receive a whip or a stick instead, as punishment.
The gifts are usually small and symbolic, often oranges or chocolate, or small useful items, leaving room for bigger presents on Christmas.
The Romanian traditional belief also says that if it snows on December 6, St. Nicholas has shaken his beard so winter can start.