Italian Festival Oh Bej! Oh Bej! Full Guide

What is the ‘Oh Bej! Oh Bej!’ Festival?

This Italian festival is held in Milan. The quite literal meanings of the words ‘Oh Bej! Oh Bej’ are ‘Oh so nice! Oh so nice.’ This is the most awaited and enthusiastically celebrated traditional Christmas festival amongst the natives. It is held in Piazza Castello – Via Gadio – Piazza Del Cannone. It is one of the most popular of all the events in the Sant’Ambrogio week. The Christmas market has already had ancient history as old as five centuries ago since when it has been filled with candies, surprises and other gifts. Fiera di Sant’Ambrogio (“Saint Ambrose Fair”) is considered as the informal name of the fair. These preparations are for the Milanese festivities that are well known around the world. Oh Bej! Oh Bej! is celebrated in the honor of the city’s patron, Sant’Ambrogio and is held on December 7.

It continues on an average of four days or till the upcoming Sunday. This festival is worth attending by both the Milanese citizens as well as tourists. It is held at the most important weekend that is leading up to the magical days of Christmas. You can set out to search for the perfect gift at these Christmas markets or just enjoy the extraordinary atmosphere and lively spirit. You can find products of all kinds and budgets at the fair that is organized on December 8. It is usually crowded since Saint Ambrose Day is immediately followed by the Immaculate Conception Day (an Italian national holiday). This in turn might be followed by a week-end, Milanese usually have several free days in the fair’s days.

Items on sale at the Oh Bej! Oh Bej! Christmas market

There are many miscellaneous articles for sale here. These include florists, artisans, tradesmen with prints and books, masters of wrought iron, copper and brass. Plus there are crafted toys, sweet vendors, local honey producers, roasted chestnuts. Including these are the “Firunatt” or “Firon.” These are the traditional strings of smoked chestnuts that form long necklaces. Hence the choice is endless.

In the wintry days you can stroll around the stalls with sizzling hot drinks and other special treats of the season. Quite certainly do not miss the Panettone, the famous Christmas cake. Thirty centimeters high and typically dome-shaped, Panettone, is the perfect Milanese cake! It has ruled the Christmas table from the 15th century onwards because of its softness and delicacy. Although in the past this was a Milanese top secret recipe, it is now found and appreciated all over the world. Mostly sweets and Christmas or winter delicacies, handcrafts such as Christmas decorations, toys, antiques, souvenirs, bric-a-brac, and more are sold.  

Modern Fair:

On the other hand there is also a modern fair, but one that harks back to tradition. Products are collect from all over the world. This happens at the Handicraft At The Fair which is a brand new exhibition center of the city. This is divid according to the continents of origin: an entire pavilion dedicated to Italy.

The others are divid between the continents Europe, America, Africa, Asia and Oceania. Admission to the Artigiano in Fiera is free and the opening hours for every day are from 10 to 22.30. Artigiano in Fiera is an opportunity to learn about the traditions and work culture of over one hundred countries. Since this is where you come into direct contact with the artisans. It is ideal to find Christmas gifts details, goldsmith products, accessories, leather, objects, all manufactured in different parts of the planet. In addition, you are also able to taste the culinary delights around the world.

Locations for the Festival in the past years

Oh Bej! Oh Bej! is a fair that has been hold in many different locations. Until 1886, it was located in Piazza Mercanti (in the surroundings of the Duomo). This is also knows as the ‘Merchant’s Square’ and is a central city square in Milan, Italy. Basilica di Sant’Ambrogio held this festival from 1886 to 2006. This is a church in the center of Milan in northern Italy. This ancient church was build by St. Ambrose in 379–386.

It was in an area where numerous martyrs of the Roman persecutions had buried. Moreover, Basilica Martyrum was indeed considered as the first name of the church . Finally in 2006, the fair was relocated again, to the area of the Sforza Castle. This is a medieval fortification located in Milan, northern Italy.  Francesco Sforza was the Duke of Milan who built it in the 15th century. Duke of Milan, Its remnants remain in the 14th century of fortification. It was later renovate and enlarged and now houses some of the city’s main museums and art collections. 

History of the Festival

Foremostly why and how did the name Oh Bej! Oh Bej! come into existence is the main question. In Milanese dialect “Oh Bej! Oh Bej!” quite literally refers to “Oh beautiful, Oh beautiful.”  This was a cry of joy from the children of the city as per tradition when they saw the exquisite gifts and products before them. Moreover, there is a second version that suggests an alternate theory. This represents a precise historical moment when this cry arose: the shouts of joy from the Milanese children. This was in 1510 when they saw the gifts brought to the city by Pope Pius IV’s envoy Giannetto Castiglioni on December 7.

The fair dates back to the late thirteenth-century and this is what tells about how ancient the event actually is. According to a legend this was Giannetto’s way of appeasing and flattering the Milanese people. Therefore he carried bulky boxes of sweets and toys for the Milanese children. The fair was organize in the memory of celebrating this unique day. Since Giannetto was follow by people joyful and cheering till they reached the Basilica of Sant’Ambrogio.  His effort bore fruits. The name of the festival is coine after the cries of excitement of the children after they received the presents. 

Other December Events and Festivals in Italy

Milan is perhaps the hub of fashion and culture. Just like Oh Bej! Oh Bej! street market festival featuring wine, food and craft vendors many such other celebrations are hold side by side. 


After Rome, Milan is the biggest Italian community to house the Jewish people.In the same way, Hanukkah in Milan is celebrated at various congregation places for Jews. This happens throughout the city over 8 nights in December.  There is a large public Menorah traditionally set up in Piazza San Carlo. In the same way, This is the Festival of Lights. For the commemoration of the recovery of Jerusalem and rededication of the Second Temple at the beginning of the Maccabean revolt. This starts on the 25th day of Kislev according to the Hebrew calendar. In the same way, According to the Gregorian calendar these dates fall from late November to late December. A candelabrum with nine branches is lit up with candles. This is call a menorah or hanukiah for celebrating the festival.  

La Scala Theater

This event is not limit to the December month. However, the holiday season is a great time to attend a concert at the famous La Scala Theater. This is one of Italy’s top historic opera houses. This cultural night receives a festive atmosphere by all the decorations out on the street beautifying it. La Scala is an abbreviation in Italian of the official name Teatro alla Scala. It is a famous opera house in Milan, Italy. The theater was inaugurate on 3 August 1778. This place is historically famous for many of Italy’s greatest opera singers and artists who have performed here from all over the world.  The theater also has an associate school, known as the La Scala Theater Academy. This offers professional training in music, dance, stagecraft, and stage management.

The Milan Christmas Market

This is an outdoor seasonal event with more than 60 market huts centered around the Duomo consisting of traditional Christmas products. From December until early January, a Christmas fair is hold. The Milanese and visitors go to buy Italian-made nativity crafts, children’s toys, and seasonal treats from these markets. There is also a popular Christmas craft fair call L’Artigiano in Fiera, held at the Fiera complex in Rho. In the same way, This is in the suburbs of Milan. Christmas markets (Mercatini di Natale) have stronger traditions in Italy’s Alpine regions. You can feel it in the heart of Milano. The most recent dates were November 26, 2021–January 6, 2022. 

Holiday for the Immaculate Conception

This day is a celebration of the fact that the mother of Jesus Christ, Mary was protect from the original sin for all her life. in the same way, Roman Catholics view it as a mandatory obligation. Church attendance is a must for everyone. Many businesses are close on December 8 for this special day. However, most tourist services remain open. This day has its antiqueness in the fact that it has celebrated since the 8th century. But the original idea that the event means that Mary was born without the earliest sin. Many theological scholars have split on this issue over the past. It is knows as the Feast of the Annunciation when the Archangel Gabriel visited Virgin Mary. He came to announce to her that she would become the mother of Jesus.