Oh bej! Oh bej!, The Christmas market of Milan


As every year, in the most cosmopolitan cities in Italy, starts again the appointment with the loved and popular fair known as Oh bej! Oh bej!, which opens December 7, on the occasion of the feast of the patron saint of the city, St. Ambrose. For more than five centuries, this traditional and ancient market anticipates the atmosphere of Christmas, between colors, lights, perfumes and Italian flavors.

From December 7 to 10, the perimeter of the Sforza Castle, from piazza Castello to piazza Gadio and piazza del Cannone, welcomes almost 400 exhibitors, two thirds of which will stage the expression of the Milanese tradition: junk shops, florists, artisans, tradesmen, sellers of prints and books but also masters of wrought iron, copper and brass, Toy Stores, sweet and painters retailers. But how did this tradition come from and where it derives its name? The origin of the Oh bej! oh bej! Fair seems very old, the story tells that in 1510 Giannetto Castiglione, first Grand Master of the Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus, arrived in Milan, appointed directly by Pope Pius IV to rekindle the faith and devotion of the Ambrosian citizens who had no great sympathy for the Holy See.

It was December 7, the day the city was celebrating the patron saint Ambrose. According to the legend, Castiglione wanted to ingratiate himself with the Milanese, and thus entered the city carrying boxes full of sweets and toys for the children. The name "Oh bej! Oh bej!" (“Oh beautiful! Oh beautiful!”) is supposedly a reference to the cheerful cries of the Milanese children receiving presents from Giannetto Castiglione. Typical of the period, together with mustard and chestnut cake, were the firòn, smoked chestnuts in the oven, pour the white wine and strung in long strings.

Today the market houses a lot of delicacies coming from all Italian regions: Cuneo’s chestnuts, cold cuts from Umbria, Sicilian sweets, chocolate from Piedmont, Tuscany and Sardinian cheeses, fritters and much more, but the lead products are the roasted chestnuts and mulled wine, able to warm up the cold days in Milan. In addition to the traditional stands in the Sforza Castle neighborhood, there will be other 80 terminals at the Bussa overpass, which connects the Porta Garibaldi station with the Isola neighborhood. Here it is staged the exhibition Alter Bej!, where you can buy self-artisan products, unique pieces and second-hand and artistic creations, and watch performances by musicians, jugglers and street performers.

If you like rummaging among the stalls or are you looking for original handicrafts coming from all parts of the world - the stands are divided into different sections, dedicated to Italy, Europe and outside Europe – don’t miss to walk to the fair of Oh bej! Oh bej!