Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Ex-refugee full of Christmas spirit

Impressed by how city celebrates season

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'Moe' Wajih Zeid has lived in Winnipeg since 1967, but still marvels at how Winnipeg and Canada embraces Christmas.

"As soon as I got here, I was impressed with how Canadians celebrate at Christmastime," said Zeid. "Families really make a point of getting together. Back home, immediate families get together, but here, brothers, cousins, nephews and everyone gets together."

Zeid, a Palestinian refugee who owns four Foodfare stores in Winnipeg, took a risk when he moved to Canada in 1967, but said Winnipeg and Canada have been so good to him and his family that he would never leave. When Zeid first came to Winnipeg, he said he had a job within two weeks and was able to bring his wife over to Winnipeg two years later so they could make their home in Canada.

"I heard when I came that the Canadian people were kind and it was all true. Canada has given me everything. I would never go anywhere else. I'll live here until I die."

Zeid lived in a refugee camp in Palestine until he was 16 and in Germany before moving to Winnipeg. He said he was immediately impressed with the city after moving to Winnipeg and that fondness has only grown over the years. He said he had no problems adjusting to Winnipeg's frigid temperatures.

"I was never bothered by the cold. You just spend more time indoors in the winter."

When Zeid first got here, he worked 18 hours a day, seven days a week, at Manitoba Sausage and a Chicken Delight outlet until he bought his first grocery store. Not only does he appreciate the opportunities Canada has given him, he makes sure to use his position to give to those who are less fortunate than him at Christmastime.

"At Foodfare, we donate to Children's Hospital every year," said Zeid. "We know we have the opportunity to give and we make sure we do. Christmas is not just about getting, it is about giving, because Canada gave us what we have."

Zeid said he believes Christmas is a time all Canadians should celebrate, no matter their religious or ethnic background.

"It is for everyone whether they are Christian, Muslim or anything else."

Zeid's son, Munther, was born in Winnipeg but returns to Palestine every year. He said he is still amazed by the differences in the way Palestinians and Canadians celebrate the holidays.

"You can tell when it is the holidays back in Palestine, but it is nothing like it is here," said Munther. "In Canada you see the lights, the trees. It's just everywhere."

Munther said the Zeid family are practising Muslims but celebrate Christmas because for them it is about celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ.

"The only difference between the Muslim faith and the Christian faith is that we believe in Jesus Christ as a prophet while Christians believe he is the son of God," said Munther. "That is part of our religion, but we respect other beliefs and we should all respect other people and their beliefs."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 12, 2012 B2

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