New Year celebrations help Kurdish Winnipeggers feel at home

Can you imagine being arrested just for celebrating the new year? That was the experience for Nour Ali when he was trying to celebrate the Kurdish New Year growing up in Syria.

Nawruz celebrations could be dangerous growing up in Syria, Nour Ali says

Nour Ali and Schler Ali are excited to celebrate Nawruz, the Kurdish new year, in Winnipeg on Monday. (Bruce Ladan/CBC)

Can you imagine being arrested just for celebrating the New Year?

When Nour Ali was growing up in Syria, being targeted by police was a real threat every year when the Kurdish New Year approached. 

Ali came to Canada as a refugee four years ago and is celebrating the new year holiday, Nawruz, in Winnipeg on Monday.

"For Nawruz Eve we will have a bonfire and music [and] marshmallows," he said on CBC's Weekend Morning Show.

"Some traditional Kurdish things plus with Canadian traditions."

The celebrations will mark the year 2629 for Kurdish people.

The important celebration was dangerous for Ali when he was growing up in Syria.

"Police would follow us, they would catch us and put us in prison," he said, adding sometimes people were killed.

Shler Ali, with the Kurdish Association of Manitoba, said the celebrations revolve around an important bonfire. People also dress in light spring colours, she said. 

"Every city they have spot outside in the nature. If you go that spot you will see thousands of people and hundreds of tents. We put like colourful tent and we make a fire again," she said.

Shler said she was also scared celebrating the Nawruz growing up, but now that she lives in Winnipeg she's able to do it openly and with the support of the community.

"That's something very nice about Canada. We always say the nice thing about Canada is that it's a multicultural place and you are allowed to practice your culture," she said.

"The winter doesn't help us to go for a picnic because it should be outside in the nature, but still we will have our party … that's something very nice about Canada."

With a lot more Kurdish people joining the city through Operation Ezra a Winnipeg-based organization that privately sponsors Yazidi refugees, and the federal government's Yazidi resettlement plan, Ali said it's very important to strengthen the sense of community.

"We like the people feeling still to be strong, to be related to their culture. Also we do a lot of programming especially for newcomers to integrate into the society so we have to show them we are all in the same boat," he said.

They are inviting everyone to join the celebration at St. Vital Park at 6 p.m. on Monday.