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The Saint Ambrose Fair in Milan: Let the Christmas Season Begin!

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In Milan, the arrival of the Saint Ambrose (Sant’Ambrogio) Fair means that the Christmas Season can officially begin. The event takes place annually from December 7-10 at the suggestive Sforzesco Castle and Sempione Park in the heart of the Lombard city. This ancient tradition dates back to the end of the 13th century and since then, it has been one of the most loved events of the year among the Milanese.

Another Name For the Fair

In the Milanese dialect, the expression Oh Bej! Oh Bej!” literally translates as “Oh beautiful! Oh beautiful!”. According to tradition, this was what children would exclaim when they saw all of the goodies and toys at the fair.

Another version suggests that the origin dates back to 1510 and refers to the children’s excitement when they would receive gifts from Pope Pius IV. Either version seems plausible being that very few children’s families would have been in a position to afford gifts and sweets for their children.

What to Expect at the Saint Ambrose Fair

You can find a wide range of products suitable for all budgets, displayed by second-hand dealers, florists, artisans, print and booksellers, wrought iron, copper, and brass masters, toy makers, and bakers. There is no shortage of stalls selling roasted chestnuts and “Firunatt” or “Firòn“, the classic smoked chestnuts arranged like long necklaces.

Walking along the avenues, sipping a hot drink and savoring traditional desserts (like the Christmas classic, panettone) are all part of the unforgettable experience of celebrating the Holidays in Milan!