On the night of December 5th, boots are cleaned and carefully polished to be put by the door or on the windowsill to wait for St. Nicholas’ (Sfantul Nicolae) visit. He is generous to adults as well as children, putting a little present in each boot—usually nuts, tangerines, sweets, chocolate and small useful items, like new socks. Larger gifts come at Christmas.
Gift-giving is increasing, however, and 93.8% of Romanians living in small cities and 88.4% of those in urban areas expect to buy St. Nicholas gifts. 71.2% will give sweets, the most popular choice. Other popular gifts are toys, clothes, books, and fruit. Urban residents purchase more expensive items, such as smartphones, tablets, and holidays.
In some areas a walnut branch or thin twigs with gold, silver, or bronze gilded walnuts are left as a warning that behavior needs to improve. On the sixth of December, gifts are also given to friends, children, and those in need. It is one of the most important Romanian holidays, as well as the start of the holiday season.
If it snows on the sixth of December, it is said that St. Nicholas has shaken his beard so winter can begin.
More than 800,000 Romanians celebrate their name day on St. Nicholas day, December 6th. 815,453 persons are named Nicholas or derivations of the name, 530,089 men (Nicolae, Nicu) and 285,364 women (Nicoleta, Nicola), reports the Ministry of Administration.
Market research in 2017 shows that over 90% of Romanians intend to give gifts for St. Nicholas Day, spending an average of $86. Popular gifts are sweets, toys, clothes and shoes, followed by fruit, cosmetics, perfume and books. Less common are jewelry, electronics, household items, or trips.
Over 1000 churches are dedicated to St. Nicholas in Romania, at least 23 in Bucharest.