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Christmas and New Year in Milan
December is the month during which Milan reveals all these different faces: it is at the same time possible to discover previously unknown spots of the city brightened up by the Christmas lights and to chance again upon the most celebrated sights, decked up in festive apparel.
Milan is a place where centuries-old traditions can live again in unexpected ways. It is a city that keeps growing and changing with new skyscrapers and museums designed by celebrated architects. Between gourmet discoveries and last minute purchases, you can also inhale the aroma of panettone and feel the warmth of a cup of hot chocolate.
The time for Christmas excitement and the search for presents starts on December 7, when the city draws on its ancient soul to celebrate its patron Saint, Ambrose. At this time, for those who love traditional Christmas markets, the Oh Bej, Oh Bej is back: for centuries it has offered visitors delicatessen, sweets, handicrafts and a hot cup of mulled wine – it is now held by the ramparts of the Castello Sforzesco. The name Oh Bej, Oh Bej (pronounced Oh Bey) comes from the Milanese children’s traditional cry of “how beautiful, how beautiful…” when shown the toys and sweets on sale.
Almost at the same time, on December 9th the Milan Rho Trade Fair exhibition grounds hosts L’Artigiano in Fiera (The Artisan at the Fair) the market – exhibition dedicated to Italian and international craft. Once there, it is impossible not to get lost among the various stands, looking for that last Christmas present or tasting foodstuffs from all parts of Italy and most of the world.
After the weekend, the stalls will not disappear: that is the moment in which new markets open across the whole city, starting with the one in Piazza del Duomo, around the cathedral.
Every year the Christmas spirit lights up the whole city for a month of events for everybody, from the major squares to Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, from La Scala to the historical fashion and shopping stops. La Scala Theatre inaugurates its new season on December 7 with a performance-event much to be talked about in the media. The work chosen by Maestro Riccardo Chailly for 2018 is Giuseppe Verdi’s Attila, directed by Davide Livermore, a director and a light-designer guaranteeing originality. It will be possible to follow La Scala’s Opening Night in various theatres and public locations, including Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, where it will be shown live free, thanks to the Prima Diffusa project.
Christmas lights are another classic and in recent years Milan has started to develop this tradition creatively and with an artistic bent. Right at the heart of the city the great Christmas tree in Piazza del Duomo, selected every year with an eye to sustainability, is lit up during an opening event. Not only Piazza del Duomo, but the whole city brightens with light installations, from the Galleria’s spectacular vault to the street illuminations far from the city center, to the locations included in the Luci a Milano (Lights in Milan) project, which will transform a significant number of squares in a great artistic Christmas Lights Show.
Christmas in Milan means panettone, the not-to-be-missed typical cake well-liked all over the world. Legend has it that this currant and candied orange-stuffed cake was invented in the 15th Century by a kitchen apprentice at the court of the Duke of Milan, Ludovico il Moro, and was actually a last-minute solution in place of a mismanaged and more complex dessert. It has been reserved a special celebration, and in 2017 the largest handmade panettone ever (2 meters high and 140 kilos) was portioned out to 1200 persons in the Galleria. Shall we have an even bigger one in 2018?
For the eleventh year in a row, Palazzo Marino (the City Hall) hosts for the whole Christmas period an artistic masterpiece on loan from an Italian museum – it can be visited free of charge. In the last editions thousands of people have been able to admire works by Titian, Rubens, Canova, Caravaggio, De La Tour, Leonardo. This year it will be Perugino’s Adoration of the Three Wise Men, a Renaissance masterpiece from Umbria’s National Gallery. Umbria will also lend to Milan a beautiful traditional crib scene on display at Palazzo Marino, the Town Hall.
Milan has a special way to celebrate the coming of Christmas and that is the Advent’s Musical Calendar. Every December evening a surprise will meet the onlookers’ gaze on a palace in Piazza Duomo, a new surprise with each passing day until Christmas.
This is of course not the only musical event at a time of the year that has its own exclusive soundtrack: among the many offers the traditional Christmas concert in Piazza Duomo, offered to citizens and visitors a few days before Christmas itself, featuring famous classical ensembles and choirs every year, and New Year’s Eve Celebration in Piazza Duomo, which has seen onstage, waiting for midnight, famous artists such as Mario Biondi, Vinicio Capossela or bluesman Bombino.
La Scala is open for the holidays and celebrates in the illustrious company of Vivaldi, Mozart and Verdi: two Christmas concerts on December 22 and 23 will be reserved for sacred music, while on December 31 Verdi arias will be performed by four great operatic singers, Maria José Siri, Jorge del Leòn, Simone Piazzola e Riccardo Zanellato. Four great singers for Beethoven’s Ninth as well: with its “Ode to Joy” it has been Orchestra LaVerdi’s New Year’s soundtrack for the last twenty years. Karina Gauvin, Sonia Prina, Moritz Kallenberg, e Jochen Kupfer will be at the Auditorium di Milano from December 29 to January 1, along with the renowned Milanese orchestra, Conductor Claus Peter Flor and Choirmaster Erina Gambarini.
Finally, as on every winter, some season classics will of course be available, such as Christmas villages dedicated to children and various ice rinks for skating. Traditional and innovative, festive and intimate, Christmas in Milan is there to be discovered, with a rich calendar of events and quality experiences to make the most of.
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