Wishing for a White Christmas has taken on a sinister new meaning in Coccaglio, Lombardy after the mayor Franco Claretti, a member of the anti-immigration Northern League, decided to "start to do some 'cleaning' despite Coccaglio being a country where immigration has never been a problem of security or public order".
The extensive house-to-house checks by immigration officials ostensibly to ensure migrants' papers 'are in order', with residents unable to produce residency papers or found to have overstayed their visas facing deportation, have bee going on since 25 October. They are due to finish on 25 December, hence the name.
The initiative has been hailed by fellow party member Interior Minister Roberto Maroni and Reform Minister Umberto Bossi, the head of the Northern League, claimed that "the municipality was just applying the law, even if there was no need to call the initiative 'White Christmas'. They could have called it 'Christmas Regularity Control'."
Other see it differently with one local politician claiming that the Northern League has shown ''racism worthy of the Ku Klux Klan'' and Saturday saw a 'United Colours Of Christmas' demonstration organised by more than 30 anti-racist and migrant support organisations and political parties against what some have called a pogrom.
So just as Joseph and Mary were supposed to have had to return to Bethlehem to take part in a census in the bleak mid winter, a census of a very different sort is happening in northern Italy and some will suffer an even bleaker mid winter. To quote Claretti, "Christmas isn't the celebration of hospitality but, rather, of Christian tradition and our identity."