The eve of St. Nicholas. For Romanian children and probably for children coming from other traditions as well, this means that they have to prepare their boots and place them at the window. St. Nicholas, the one who brings gifts in secret, will pass by and leave something there: perhaps a coin of chocolate, perhaps an orange, or maybe just a piece of bread.
In my childhood, St. Nicholas’ night was filled with magic. We used to get oranges, which were unseen throughout the year in communist Romania (I have heard many people from those parts of the world saying that Christmas smells like oranges), so we were sure that St. Nicholas really brought them from some place far away. But we also used to get a little wooden stick, a “joarda,” so that our parents could use them if we were not good. Of course, they never did. In fact, I don’t even know whether it was a local tradition, but “joarda” never missed from out little bags that we found in our boots.
But really think about it: a “joarda” as a gift. Just like the oranges, “joarda” was not “deserved.” It was a gift, as all people in this life are, however they are. May I have my “boots” prepared for them.
Happy St. Nicholas day, all of you!