How the Lily Capital Made Us Happy


Lily Festival 2009 Neepawa Manitoba Canada (17)

Lily Festival 2009 Neepawa Manitoba Canada (17) by Shahnoor Habib, on Flickr

It’s Christmas Eve. My family and I are driving back from the ski resort at Asessippi, near Russell, MB. We’ve had a good couple of days there, but now it’s time to head home. The resort will be closed over Christmas, so there’s no point for us in hanging around. Everything is festooned in lights, artificial mistletoe galore, reindeer and fat guys in red suits everywhere. It’s not our holiday but we don’t mind. We’re used to being the outsiders, to adjusting to the schedule of the majority. It’s OK. Given how dark it is this time of year, we quite like it, in fact.

In case you are wondering, Hannukah was quite a bit earlier this year, and anyway, it’s not the Jewish Christmas. I would generally recommend you don’t bother with it, if you don’t know exactly when and what it is. Many people said “Merry Christmas!” to us as we checked out of the hotel in Russell, and we just smiled and said, “Same to you!”. It’s all good.

The driving conditions were pretty awful as we came down from the ridge, with blowing snow and even the odd patch of icy fog. The peanut gallery in the back seat started to complain. We had planned to make it all the way to Gladstone, MB, two hours from Russell, before stopping to change drivers, but it seemed prudent to stop and get some snacks for the complainers before we went much further. Also, it was past 4 pm and everywhere was closing down to allow people to celebrate Christmas. As we drew into Neepawa, MB, population 3400 and the self-proclaimed Lily Capital of the World , I despaired of finding anywhere open to feed the crew.

Lo and behold, the Esso store on the northern outskirts of the town beckoned us with its golden glow. The Tim Hortons inside was closed; but the convenience store, with its snacks, drinks and washrooms, was open and indeed bustling. As I thanked the lovely lady in the hijab behind the counter for being open at that hour, she smiled and told me they were open until 10 pm.

Now, if you live in a big, diverse city, this does not seem such a miracle to you. But the Manitoba hinterland was settled by Brits, Ukrainians, Poles and other Europeans. Census data from 2001 show nobody living in Neepawa who wasn’t European in origin. But the fascinating information from 2011 shows small communities from Pakistan, the Philippines and South Korea. While the latter two groups are generally also Christian, and therefore otherwise occupied on Christmas Eve, the existence of enough Muslims in Neepawa to feed a Jewish family on their drive home makes me really, really happy.

Diversity has always been the soul of Canada’s big cities, but to see it penetrating into the lily-white rural areas is a relatively new phenomenon. May all newcomers live long and prosper.

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One Response to “How the Lily Capital Made Us Happy”

  1. Zohar Says:

    this post made me happy too.

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