Oh Bej! Oh Bej! returns to Sforza Castle

6-9 Dec. Milan’s longest-running Christmas market.

The Milan Christmas market with the longest history is back at the Sforza Castle this year, from 6 to 9 December, on either side of the patron saint’s feast day of St Ambrose.

Oh Bej! Oh Bej! (pronounce it o-bay o-bay) offers every kind of Christmas treat, sweets and hearty winter food, both to enjoy on the spot or to take home for later. The over 400 stalls also propose antiques, books, toys, flowers, clothing, Nativity crib figures and articles in wrought iron.

Some council members had hoped to move the market to its original location around the St Ambrose basilica, but problems of public order – keeping an eye on illegal tradesmen – and logistics won out, and Oh Bej! Oh Bej! Now seems to be firmly ensconced in the castle grounds.

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 bej! Oh bej! (How lovely! How lovely!).