Milan prepares to open Oh bej! Oh bej!

7 Dec. Milan’s favourite Christmas market opens.

Stalls are being set up and traders are preparing wares for the most popular street market in Milan, with a history going back over 800 years.

The feast of Milan’s patron saint, St Ambrose, on 7 December traditionally marks the beginning of the Christmas season.  Held as usual on the streets fronting the Sforza castle in the city centre, the market this year will have 379 stands with everything shoppers as Christmas gifts.

This year, four of the stands will be entirely dedicated to figures and accessories for presepi (Nativity cribs) and Christmas trees. Other stands will offer local foods, treats like roasted chestnuts, antique and modern items in wrought iron or brass, flowers, decorations and much more.

Although the market has been held since 1288, its folksy name dates back “only” to 1510.  In that year, Pope Pius IV sent an emissary to revive the faith of the milanesi, suspected of lacking enthusiasm for the Church. Fearing an unfriendly reception, the emissary prepared a stock of sweets and toys for local children, who greeted them with cries of Oh bei! Oh bej! (How lovely! How lovely!).

The market, with no entrance fee, continues through until Sunday 10 December.