As in every other beginning of winter, on the night of 5 of December, Saint Nicholas comes bringing with him the first snow.
In the evening, children take out their best shoes or boots. Every piece of dirt is removed and the leather is shined to the lustre of the mirror. There is laughter, but also, in the cold winter night, there is a slight nervousness in the air, because Saint Nicholas, unlike his older brother Santa Claus, rewards as much as he punishes.
As a child, when you display your shined boots in a neat line close to the door, for Saint Nicholas does not like to be seen and needs quick access to leave the gists, you wonder. Have I beed good enough, kids enough to get a gift? Or have I beed naughty and mean, with the result of getting a stick instead of a present? Did the adults around me gave a good report to Saint Nicholas? And if the old man Nicholas is displeased with me, will he later go to Santa and tell him I deserve no gifts?
You sit there, nervously looking at your boots, and your mind flies over the previous year. You remember the times you have been good and kids, and you also remember those times when you spoke in anger or did not listen to your parents, and in your little head, you try to put it all on the balance. You finally go to bed and make a little quiet promise that next year you will be a better person, a better sibling and friend, you will listen more and help more.
And early in the morning, as the first light appears, you run with excitement to your boots. Sometimes the first thing you see is a straight, long stick and your heart freezes. And yet you go closer, and in your boots are sweets and games, or maybe something you wished for, and you smile. The stick is a quiet reminder of the times when you have not been as good as you could, the presents a joyful recognition of your good deeds.
In the Romanian tradition, Saint Nicholas is Santa Claus younger brother. Unlike Santa's joyful laughter and roundness, Saint Nicholas is skinny and moody, happy to reward as much as he is to punish. He does not like to be seen and promises of change do not sway him. And yet, children love him equally as much as they fear him.
Older boys, on the verge of maturity, on this night start practicing the carols that will be sung on Christmas and New Year, while young unmarried girls will eat a piece of bread with lots of salt so in the night, when the thirst becomes unbearable they can dream of a man that gives them water, indicating he is the one that they will marry.