Today, 5th December, is a special day/night for Romanian people. It is the evening that Moș Nicolae visits and leaves gifts in the shoes of those who have been good this year. Moș Nicolae is Saint Nicholas – the role model who inspired the more universally known character of Santa Claus. Here in Romania, Moș Nicolae visits during the night of 5th December, and Moș Crăciun (Santa) visits during the night of 24th December.
Around this time in early December, markets are filled with an abundance of colourfully decorated canes and sticks. Many feature bells, ribbons and decorative toppers such as snowmen or santa claus heads. These sticks have become a custom here and are given to children from Moș Nicolae. They originally signified a naughty child and were given instead of sweets and candy to the unlucky recipient (it is said that Moș Nicolae used to punish wrong-doers by hitting their hands with a stick) – however nowadays these sticks have become a more lighthearted symbol of Moș Nicolae and are frequently given to most children.
Tonight, children, and even some hopeful adults, will leave their shoes on window ledges or by the front door and hope that Moș Nicolae will leave them something nice!