Discovering Milan's traditions: celebrating Sant’Ambrogio​

When talking about the area surrounding our RELSTAY accommodation located on Via San Vittore, in the heart of the Sant’Ambrogio neighbourhood, we already touched on a few important notions regarding Milan’s Saint Patron. Nevertheless, while refreshing some of the history, we will dive here into modern day traditions, giving our guests all the information they need when visiting Milan this upcoming December.

The History: Sant’Ambrogio and the new faith

Every town in Italy, even the smallest villages, has a Patron who is supposed to protect and guard its people, and every year the whole town stops to celebrate the Patron on a particular day depending on the Saint’s birthday, death-day, or sanctification day. Saint Ambrogio is, as a matter of fact, Milan’s Patron: he is celebrated on December 7th, the day before the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, a national holiday. Therefore, Milan’s inhabitants often take advantage of either a long weekend or almost a full week of vacation before the actual Christmas holiday.

Talking a little about the history of the Saint, Aurelio Ambrogio lived in the latest era of the Roman Empire, when discrepancies between Catholics and Pagans were starting to divide many of the Roman provinces. He was soon appointed governor of Milan, and not many years later he gained the title of Bishop even though he hadn’t been born Catholic. He was described as humble, kind and devoted to the Church, to the point that he defended the Christian faith from the heretics, severely punishing and secluding them. Many legends and myths have Sant’Ambrogio as their protagonist: one recounts a time when he recognized one of Christ’s crucifixion nails while he was walking near a metalworker shop; another tells the story of a bee swarm flying over him as a baby without touching him; there’s even one that sees him fighting the devil next to a marble column placed outside of his Basilica, where people say you might smell sulfur coming from the depth of hell up until today.

Local traditions: now and then  

Traditionally, Sant’Ambrogio’s celebration is considered the symbolic start of the Christmas season: the city shines bright and glows from the light of Christmas decorations and one can even have a glance of people’s Christmas trees from the city’s windows. The main character, though, is Piazza Duomo’s Christmas tree, which is finally lit up on the 7th of December

While it was historically a religious occurrence, from the XVI century onward the holiday became more and more tied to folklore and cultural tradition: for example, it is believed that on December 7th 1510, a man brought to Milan food, treats and presents for the whole city. The people, being thankful and joyful, began shouting “Oh bej oh bej”, which is a Milanese expression to indicate astonishment and wonder. Today, the Oh Bej Oh Bej Christmas market takes place every year next to the Sforzesco Castle, and it celebrates wealth and abundance. 

Another important tradition that is linked to Sant’Ambrogio’s celebrations is the start of the season at La Scala, Milan’s most famous theater. Every year, from lyrics to prose, from musicals to ballet, the debut is scheduled for December 7th and it’s common for locals to gather and watch the first show of the season. 

Finally, you can’t visit Milan on Sant’Ambrogio and not taste the famous “panettone”! Now sold in every Italian store during the holiday, the “panettone” is actually a typical Milanese dessert: according to the legend, in the XV century, the Duke of Milan’s chef accidentally burned the dessert, and invented the “pan de Toni” as backup. Sweet soft bread with butter, raisin and candied fruit, the original “panettone” can be found in nearly any Milanese bakery on Sant’Ambrogio. 

Stay with us for Sant’Ambrogio: book a RELSTAY accommodation! 

Conveniently located in the trendiest neighborhoods of the city, our cozy accommodations all feature contactless and digital self-check-in and check-out, fast and unlimited free wifi, 24/7 real time assistance, and fresh bathroom essentials. Our apartments also offer a well-equipped kitchen. 

Whether for a weekend or an extended stay, whether for business or leisure, with RELSTAY you will be granted stress-free experience, with hotel-like comforts in a home-like environment. 

Ready to celebrate Sant’Ambrogio with us?