Roxana-Mălina Chirilă

A short explanation of the Romanian Santa invasion

So, here’s the deal. I know you English-speaking people around the globe sometimes refer to Santa Claus as ‘Nicholas’ (Saint Nicholas). But Romania, along with a few other countries, is special. We have an abundance of old men getting into our homes in various ways and leaving presents in various places (even if one of old men doesn’t show up anymore).

First, Saint Nicholas, better known here as Old Man Nicholas. He looks sort of like Santa Claus, I assume, although I’ve always pictured him a bit thinner, probably due to religious paintings. He comes on the night between the 5th and the 6th of December, traditionally bringing sweets to good children and rods (usually painted silver) to bad children. If you’re a normal kid, he tends to bring both. He leaves all presents in kids’ shoes.

Then there’s Santa himself. You know him, he shows up on Christmas Eve and leaves the presents for Christmas morning. We call him something like ‘Old Man Christmas’ – Moș Crăciun, where ‘moș’ means old man, and ‘Crăciun’ means Christmas.

And here’s where the third Santa shows up: Romania was a communist country for a few decades and one of the ideas the Communist Party had was to eliminate religion from people’s lives. So in order to replace Santa and St. Nicholas, they imported Ded Moroz from Russia. What did he look like? Kind of like Santa. What did he do? Deliver presents, obviously. His name was translated literally into Moș Gerilă (Old Man Frost) and he showed up on New Year’s Eve. But, after ‘89 and the fall of communism, Old Man Frost vanished and Old Man Christmas and Old Man Nicholas returned.

So yes, we do have an invasion of old men dressed in red who come bearing gifts (one of whom is now obsolete). And they’re probably all just Odin in disguise.

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