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7 Christmas traditions in Lombardy

Sweets, Christmas markets, majestic trees and nativity scenes, the traditions of Lombardy light up Christmas and warm the heart

In the colourful glow of its Christmas lights, Lombardy prepares to welcome Christmas with an irresistible mix of ancient traditions and modern celebrations.

In this article, we will immerse ourselves in the enchanted atmosphere of the season through 7 Christmas traditions in Lombardy that make this time of year a unique experience. From heart-warming Christmas confectionary to the imposing Christmas tree dominating Piazza Duomo, via the lively Christmas fair “Oh bej! Oh bej!” and the more particular cribs. Every corner of Lombardy is dressed in Christmas magic, and every moment is an opportunity to experience the warmth of Christmas.

Eating traditional Christmas cakes

Christmas in Lombardy is not just panettone, it is also a journey through local traditions. In Cremona, they enjoy nougat, soft or hard, while in Crema there is spongarda, a cake with dried fruit, nuts, and spices. Brianza delights us with pantramvai, a cake similar to bread with raisins. In Valtellina there is bisciola, a buckwheat loaf with chestnuts, dried fruit, honey, sultanas, dried figs and walnuts. Bergamo celebrates with polenta e osei, a dome of sponge cake soaked in orange liqueur. Lodi has the almond-based tortionata and of course, how could we not mention the famous amaretti from Saronno?


The Christmas Tree in Piazza Duomo

It's not Christmas without the traditional tree in Piazza Duomo, a symbolic appointment in Milan’s festive calendar that takes place every year on 6 December. A large fir tree surrounded by pop-up shops and installations with a different theme every year. In fact, the municipality of Milan issues a call, every year, for all companies to sponsor the tree. For the 2023 edition, the tree will be decorated with logos and images for the Milan-Cortina 2026 Winter Games. Framing the square will be the Milan Christmas Market, where crafts and delicacies of all kinds can be purchased. 

Going to the Oh bej! Oh bej! fair

The Oh Bej! Oh Bej! fair is Milan's most famous Christmas market, celebrated during the Sant'Ambrogio festival in front of the Castello Sforzesco. Dating back to 1288, the fair attracts thousands of tourists with a variety of stands offering antiques, clothing, toys and winter delicacies. The name 'Oh bej! Oh bej!' dates back to 1510, when Giannetto Castiglione brought gifts to Milan, winning over the Milanese. The fair is an old tradition that heralds the start of the festivities and welcomes around 400 stands in 25,000 square metres each year. Admission is free.

Celebrating the night of Saint Lucia

The night of St Lucia, 13 December, is eagerly awaited by children, who receive gifts and sweets on this special occasion. Legend has it that Lucy, during Diocletian's persecution, brought food and gifts to Christians in hiding, wearing a crown of candles and accompanied by a donkey. Tradition has it that every year, on the night between 12 and 13 December, she returns to bring gifts to children who have been good. Before bedtime, milk and biscuits are left for Lucia and carrots for the donkey. When they wake up, children will find candy and gifts, or coal if they have been less good.

Visiting the more particular cribs. 

Christmas in Milan is enriched with the magic of the Biblical Crib of Baggio, one of the city's historical treasures. Created in the 1960s by Egidio Negrini, a devoted volunteer of the Sant'Apollinare parish, this crib offers a journey through time, through its original statues displayed in a small museum during guided tours. Open every Sunday in December and every day from 25 December to 7 January, the Baggio Crib becomes an exciting stop during the Christmas holidays.
In picturesque Erba, the Crevenna Crib paints a fascinating picture of life in 1950s Brianza. With detailed scenes of crafts, trades, and everyday moments, the nativity scene captures the authenticity of a bygone era. In addition to the tender representation of the nativity, other traditional nativity scenes and works created by local schools are also on display.

In Crema, the Sabbioni district hosts a magnificent religious event with the Sabbioni Crib. Since 1989, this nativity scene covers an area of about 3000 square metres, presenting over 300 characters and animals in wood and plaster, all reproduced life-size in a rural setting inspired by the 1940s and 1950s. Enthusiasts can visit the exhibition from 16 December to 14 January.

Talamona, in the full spirit of Christmas tradition, celebrates Christmas with the fascinating “Presepi delle Contrade”. Since 1989, these works of art, depicting the Nativity, have been placed in unique locations in the town, such as old stables, picturesque wash-houses and waterways, creating a magical and spiritual atmosphere.

Finally, in Bagolino, in the picturesque Valle Sabbia, the village is transformed into a fascinating showcase of cribs, displayed in fountains, porticos and characteristic corners. This tradition makes Bagolino a magical place to explore during the festive season, with a rich programme of cultural, recreational and sporting events for all ages.


Wandering around the Christmas markets

The Carroponte in Sesto San Giovanni is preparing to transform itself into an enchanting Christmas village with “The Magic of Christmas”. With more than one million lights illuminating an area of 25,000 square metres, the village will create a magical atmosphere inspired by picturesque Lapland. Elves will take on key roles at the Post Office and the Toy Factory, while the Elf Village and Santa's House will offer unique experiences for the little ones. An area dedicated to the 1920s, with an explainer and a Christmas market, together with a chocolate shop-restaurant, will be enhanced by entertainment ranging from magic shows to gospel choirs. “The Magic of Christmas” promises to give everyone an unforgettable festive experience.

A Castione della Presolana, the Christmas market is a popular annual event, with more than 30 exhibitors and over 90,000 visitors. Decorated huts are the ideal setting to display handcrafted creations and local delicacies. Santa's Village will offer attractions, workshops and entertainment for children, with a focus on promoting unique gifts and high quality food products. The event will also be enriched by nativity scenes, musical events, children's workshops, wooden houses, traditional handicrafts and top-quality food and wine.

In Concorezzo, Christmas World Agribrianza will be opening its doors for the 30th time. The event will feature over 1,500 square metres of exhibition space, with a wide range of Christmas items including trees, decorations, cribs and gift ideas to suit every taste and budget. Admission is free, an unmissable opportunity to fully immerse yourself in the magic of Christmas.
Livigno will be transformed into a charming Christmas Village in the snowy mountains, with illuminated wooden houses along Via Ostaria open from 10:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. On 22, 23 and 24 December, Father Christmas will distribute candy to children through Piazza del Comune and the Christmas Village, creating a unique atmosphere in Livigno's mountain setting.

Christmas charm envelops Mantua with the return of the Christmas Markets in Piazza Virgiliana. With over 60 exhibitors in wooden chalets, the markets offer handicraft creations, Christmas decorations and food and wine delicacies. The ice rink in the centre of the square will be adding a magical touch to the festive atmosphere. A little train on wheels will be offering a fascinating sightseeing tour through the heart of Mantua for a unique and unforgettable Christmas experience.

I Christmas markets in the medieval village of Bagnaria transform the town into a magical place with events such as a free concert by the San Germano Gospel Choir and activities for the youngest, such as workshops organised by 'Boscovillaggio,' a saddle baptism for children and the creation of Santa's magical village.
Lodi will be enveloped in festive joy with the 'Magic of Christmas' programme, which offers a calendar of initiatives to make the period between the waiting for Saint Lucy and Christmas a special occasion for young and old. The focus is on children, offering them a magical and engaging experience during the run-up to Christmas. The aim is to make the run-up to Christmas a unique occasion, turning these festivities into an opportunity to build memories that will remain with you for years to come.

Enchanted by the illuminations

Leggiuno is transformed into an enchanting Christmas village, populated by reindeer, sleighs and twinkling magic lights. From 2 December to 7 January, the centre lights up with the Christmas Lights creating a fascinating fairy tale path with more than 600,000 LED lights. A magical experience for all ages, with many engaging events and activities. 

Orrido di Bellano hosts the now traditional show of the Orrido Magic Christmas Lights a real success in past years. This event, popular with young and old, transforms the natural gorge into an enchanting Christmas atmosphere. The CANDY CHRISTMAS-themed venue with a world of Christmas sweets and decorations offers a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in Christmas cheer. 

Saturday 25 November, at 5 p.m., in Piazza XX Settembre in Lecco, the Christmas lights will be switched on, kicking off “Lights on Lecco 2023". Piazza Cermenati, Piazza XX Settembre and the lakefront come alive with projections and lights on the theme of the Elves' Forest, transforming the entire area into an enchanted place. Furthermore, in Piazza Cermenati, the Elf Village welcomes children with rides, a colourful train and a talking tree, providing unforgettable moments.