St. Nicolas’ Day

Customs, beliefs and traditions

For the Romanian Christians St. Nicolas’ Day is a time of particular joy, as well as an occasion for rewarding the good people and reproaching the lazy. In Oltenia, under the pillow of the hard-working people is put a corn-cob, and under that of the lazy ones – a corn-cob without grains, because, according to the tradition, St. Nicolas helped the three girls by putting a purse with gold coins at night under their pillow. Usually, fruits are put in the shoes of the good children, and in those of the mischievous children – a twig of hazelbush, to show them that during the past year they made mistakes and have to change their behavior.

In the folklore tradition, St. Nicolas with his white beard (a sign that he is old, i.e. towards the end of the year) is presented on a white horse, in line with the time of the first snow. He fights with the early setting sun in order not to leave the world without warmth and heat. He is a protector of the ships who guards against shipwreck and sinking. He helps the soldiers in battles, but also the widows, the orphans and the needy. He brings presents to the good children.

According to the tradition, this is the day when the weather and the fertility of the orchards is foreseen by putting twigs in the water, which blossom until Christmas or New Year.  With St. Nicolas’ Day ends the holiday cycle of the “grannies’” days, which start in November and are dedicated to the wolves and the spirits of the dead, and include: St. Philip’s Day (Filipii), the Presentation of Theotokos in the Temple (Ovedenia), the Nativity Fast, St. Andrew’s Day.

Sources: Alexandru Doru Șerban, Valentina Șerban, Credințe, datini și obiceiuri în Gorj; Haralambie Bodescu, Universul imaginar-simbolic al folclorului din zona Amaradiei de Sus,