Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Immigrants learned to love winter -- given some time

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The holiday season in Winnipeg is a time for celebration. However, the weather can be biting, especially to people who are accustomed to drastically different climates.

Kourosh Doustshenas, president and broker for Expert Real Estate Service, grew up in Iran and moved to Winnipeg in 1989. He said while there was the initial shock over Winnipeg's winters, he's used to them now -- even eager for them.

"Sometimes I yearn for winters during summer. I like the snow," laughed Doustshenas. "I've learned how to make friends with winter."

Although Iran seldom has snow and celebrates different holidays than Canada, Doustshenas said the Iranian holiday season is still punctuated by important dates similar to those in his new home. Yalda, a holiday in Iran marking the Northern Hemisphere's longest night of the year, is a night when families gather and celebrate the coming end to winter. It's held on Dec. 20 or 21, depending on the shift of the calender.

Doustshenas says the most celebrated day in Iran is the Iranian New Year on March 21. He said the holiday is observed for 13 days, with a large celebration at the end.

"When you pass the 13th day, it's a big superstitious day, everyone goes and celebrates outside their homes."

Doustshenas said while Christmas isn't celebrated in Iran, he celebrates it in Canada for one reason. "Just like everybody else, I want to spend time with my family."

Khodr Shamseddine, an associate professor in the department of physics and astronomy and adjunct professor in the department of mathematics at the University of Manitoba, moved from Lebanon to Michigan in 1988. He experienced winters in Michigan then Illinois for nearly 20 years, but still had to buy a warmer jacket when he moved to Manitoba in 2008.

Shamseddine said celebrations are similar in Lebanon, with both countries celebrating Christmas. And like Doustshenas, Shamseddine said he values the main tenet of what makes the holidays special.

"It's about spending time with family."

matthew.bedard@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 19, 2012 B2

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