We humans are made for continuous renewal, for faith in our ability to overcome our challenges, and for conviction in our capacity to change. It is not important how bad things may be, we are not allowed to permanently wallow in despondence, despair and hopelessness!

We humans are born to be free.

I love the expectant joy on the face of little children as they keep asking: “How far is Christmas?” They know even in the poorest home some rice, beef and chicken will be available on this day, and then of course there are the crispy new clothes and possibly some toys too!

And of course, it is holiday time – schools are closed and there is plenty of time to meet and play with friends. And make new friends – that boy next door in boarding school will be back for holidays! And the girls will be all over the place in groups of three, four or five, as if frightened to be alone in the malls, on the streets and of course in churches.

This is the season for teenage romances. Old loves sometimes end. New ones begin. Those left out of the love game hate to see the winners seemingly enjoying themselves, in pairs, while they themselves hug their loneliness.

I loved December, growing up. As an altar boy in the Catholic Church, the greatest joy came from the preparations for the Christmas main mass, the mingling we were afforded as boys and girls in extremely safe spaces at Church and camps organised for children by the Church.

The laughter, the story telling, the little secret friendships we mistook for love, the gossips, and the fire camps! You would wish December was actually 365 days long, with one exception of course; that Christmas came early!

Of all my memories that stand out most vividly during this period was the time my family was in Kasama, in the Northern Province. Kasama had just been gifted with a brand new Kasama Boys Secondary School – in fact we worked on the new sports fields ourselves – the school was opened before its construction was complete. And of course, there was Kasama Girls Secondary School on the other end of the town! Kaunda had imported for us brand new teachers, some from as far away as India! That is how the man valued education.

I served mass and had my social life at the St Johns Cathedral Catholic Church. As further luck would have it, a brand-new library had just been built very close to the Cathedral – and it was packed with good books, including I believe the entire “African Writers Series” novels.

One priest discovered an old swimming pool and brought it back to life!

There was no coronavirus to mess with our life, actually no HIV/AIDS either. I was in my early teens. I hope you get the picture: I was in a brand-new town for me, a brand-new boy’s school, very neighbourly with Kasama Girls, I loved books and I had an entire new library to invade, next to a big beautiful church I loved. And a swimming pool is thrown in for good measure! Life could not have given me better things in Kasama!

For pocket money over this period, there was a programme run by government owned retail chain stores (Mwaiseni Stores, ZCBC and others) who offered school holiday jobs to students (I think among the criteria was that the child should be passing very well – something that sort of came too naturally for me!).

December, therefore, was pure joy. Even as early as when I was 12 years, I learnt the importance of celebrating the possibility of renewal, of fresh hope, of possible true love in settings that did not permit taking advantage of others.

But most important of all, I was taught that exquisite joy and wholesome fun could be had without the dubious aid of alcohol, drugs and early sex. And this is where our challenge today lies: our young people are deprived of these simple, basic but absolutely essential social features for their wellbeing, happiness and meaningful character development, away from fetishizing alcohol and drugs and even preteen sex.

There is the matter of the internet, the cell phone and social media. Unemployed young people, young people on holiday from school, young people on break from work, in December, what means do they have to combat the alcohol and drug industries multibillion dollars advertising kits promoting the consumption of alcohol, and via music videos, the ingestion of drugs, as “cool things to do”?

There is an unholy alliance between the music industry and the alcohol industry – musicians get lucrative sponsorships from major alcohol brands and produce music videos in which these alcohol brands and near naked girls feature prominently, so that by association, it is “cool” to drink alcohol, and have all the sex you can, because a successful musician promotes both.

During this season the alcohol industry will be laughing all the way to the bank as our young people acquire alcohol and drug addictions, and are prodded on to engage in sexual activities whose full consequences they are not ready for.

I am for the protection of the individual’s right to choose what to do with their whole life. I am for all the basic human rights, including freedoms of religion, conscience, thought, and expression. Musicians right to express themselves as they wish must be protected. Art as music must be allowed to flourish and be as unimpeded as possible.

We have an alcohol and drug pandemic which gets over multiplied during this season, our young people are drowning in alcohol, drugs and cheap sex and all the downside of these behaviours. This is a season of hope, of renewal, of generating new faith in the possibility of a different and better world.
We must not be afraid to ask: How can we intervene in our cultural practices of alcohol and drug consumption, and youth sex culture, to promote more healthier behaviours? Just thinking…….

Even with everything else going on in the world today, do enjoy the festive season!

(Send your comments to: kalindawalo@2010@gmail.com)