Saint Nicholas

Saint Nicholas (270 - 6 December 346) is the common name for Nicholas of Myra, a saint and Bishop of Myra (Demre, in Lycia, part of modern-day Turkey). Because of the many miracles attributed to his intercession, he is also known as Nicholas the Wonderworker. He had a reputation for secret gift-giving, such as putting coins in the shoes of those who left them out for him, and thus became the model for Santa Claus, whose English name comes from the Dutch Sinterklaas. St. Nicholas is known as a protector of those unjustly accused, traders, travelers, unmarried girls, brides and, in particular of the children.

In Romania, Saint Nicholas, known as Moş Nicolae (Old Man Nicolae) comes every year on the night of 5 to 6 December with gifts for both children and adult. On the evening of December 5, shoes and boots are cleaned, polished and put at the door of the house. Saint Nicholas takes care of each family member and put a small gift (generally sweets or fruit) in shoes or boots. In some parts of the country, Saint Nicholas puts branches or thin twigs covered with a layer of silver or bronze along with gifts. Disobedient children are warned by their parents with those twigs. This custom, the coming of Saint Nicholas, is very old in Romania and is one of the most important holidays of the year, especially for children. Over 800,000 Romanians bears a name derived from Nicolae.