With tens of thousands of Yazidis persecuted by Islamic State terrorists and forced from their homes in Iraq, members of the religious minority had little to celebrate during their new year April 20.
For Yazidi children in a Turkish refugee camp waiting to come to Winnipeg, it was a special day in which they had eggs to colour. They fashioned one with a Canadian flag.
To adherents of the ancient religion, the year is 6766. For seven families sponsored by Winnipeg's Operation Ezra, it's the year they hope to come to Canada.
"We are hopeful that it will be soon," said Winnipeg's Nafiya Naso, who has relatives languishing in two Turkish refugee camps.
Naso said the Yazidi new year, known as Ser Sal, which means "head of the year," is celebrated on a Wednesday in April known as Red Wednesday.
It commemorates the day that Tawsi Melek, the Peacock Angel and a supreme Yazidi deity, first came to Earth to restore calm and spread his peacock colours throughout the world, she said.
The new year celebration includes colouring eggs to represent the rainbow of colours with which Tawsi Melek blessed the world, said Naso.
Traditionally, women will place blood-red flowers and shells of the coloured eggs above the doors of the Yazidis so that Tawsi Melek can recognize their homes. In a Turkish refugee camp where people survive mostly on rations of dry goods, getting eggs to boil and decorate for Yazidi new year was a treat, said Naso who received photos from relatives in the camps on the special occasion.
"One of the little girls (Roz Khudher Naso, age 7) drew the Canadian flag on one of her eggs," said Naso.
She expects two of the seven families sponsored by the fundraising effort Operation Ezra led by Winnipeg's Jewish community will arrive in Canada any day. In the mean time, the situation in the camps worsen as Turkey receives more refugees who've been turned back from Greece.
"It makes it so much harder because they have little to share and water is limited and food is limited," Naso said.
Naso, who has a family of her own in Winnipeg, said she is especially concerned about the Yazidi children who haven't been able to attend school since August 2014.
"These kids do nothing all day," she said. "They sleep and wake up."
Naso said Canadian immigration officials have assured the Winnipeg sponsors that the Yazidis' file hasn't been forgotten.
"We're very hopeful it will happen we will see our first two families very soon."
With an estimated 200 Yazidis, Winnipeg is home to one of the largest communities of the religious minority in Canada. Naso said they're ready for the arrival of more families.
"The response from the Jewish community and other communities involved with Operation Ezra has just been amazing," Naso said.
She said a business owner donated space in a warehouse where they're storing furniture and household goods for the Yazidi families. "We have the volunteers lined up. All we need is the families now."
Carol Sanders’ reporting on newcomers to Canada has made international headlines, earned national recognition but most importantly it’s shared the local stories of the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home.
Updated on Sunday, April 24, 2016 at 7:54 PM CDT: Adds photo.