Thursday, June 13, 2024

Christmas Memories


By Mwizenge S. Tembo, Ph. D.

Emeritus Professor of Sociology

Author of “Sayings of my Mother”.

Christmas is always a hectic time as we prepare for family get-togethers, travel and make travel arrangements, gift buying, decorating Christmas trees, Christmas and Christmas day parties, and attending church events. The stress, anxiety, and excitement have become all familiar and unavoidable. The decades-old annual debate about whether the holiday season comes too early and has been commercialized has long been put to bed. Shopping malls in Zambia and abroad are now packed in a frenzy of buying. The whole world seems to have given up and embraced Christmas commercialization. The old adage is now true: if you can’t fight them, join them. To remind myself that Christmas can be simple, happy and relatively painless, I go back to memories of my first earliest Christmas which I always remember with nostalgia.

It was in 1959 at Chipewa or Chupu Village in Lundazi district in the Eastern Province of Zambia. I was one of more than 20 grandchildren in the Tembo-Kabinda clan. My grandfather and grandmother were great farmers who provided us with abundant food, including delicious red kidney beans, corn or maize, pumpkins, cassava, sweet potatoes, peanuts, chicken, and an occasional goat meat. But this year there was an air of excitement. Christmas was coming and word got around that we were going to eat something special on that day.

My grandmother had saved One Shilling or 12 pence or 10 cents during the year. My aunt aNyaMsuzghika walked all afternoon to the store at Hoya and came back in the rain that evening. Whatever she had bought was dry and had been obviously carefully concealed all through advance contingency planning. I could barely sleep with anticipation about Christmas and whatever my grandmother was keeping secret.

Early the following morning, as the grandkids jostled for position around the open fireplace, a large clay pot of water was boiling. From a small brightly colored aluminum foil packet, my aunt sprinkled half of some black dry floating substances never seen before. She then poured a whole three cents worth packet of sugar into the pot. She stirred it. The children sat near the pot as adults – uncles, aunts, older cousins – sat a little distance waiting and making a running commentary among themselves on how excited we kids were.

My grandmother Nya Mwaza Tendelu handed each a small rusty metal cup. Adults and larger metal mugs. She carefully and slowly poured a little bit of the dark steaming liquid into the cups enough so that the liquid could go around the many cups. My grandmother unwrapped pieces of golden brown, white and soft edibles which were known locally as scones; pronounced as sikono. She split each piece among four children while adults split halves.

I proceeded to slowly take a sip of the sweet dark liquid followed by a small deliberate bite of the sikono. The whole experience was known as drinking tea with a small piece of a bun and it sent all us kids bananas with profound sheer joy, pleasure, and brag ado. As kids this experience could not simply be bottled away.

Soon after most of this exhilarating event was over, I clutched a rather small piece of the bun I had saved in my hand and ran outside the house to brag to other admiring friends in the village. “We drank tea and ate scones for Christmas!” I yelled at the top of my lungs as I pranced around. The other kids in the village begged for a piece of Christmas. I gave each of them a smitten of the bun. Just enough to wet their mouths. But the kids were thrilled all the same.

That was my happiest Christmas ever. Later that morning we went to church and in the afternoon watched traditional dances.

More than 64 years – thousands of cups of tea and loaves of bread, pizzas, hamburgers – later, I have never really forgotten that Christmas. The majority of people in rural parts of the Third World today still celebrate Christmas by eating something special in the whole large family – often a cup of sweetened black tea and a slice of bread or a bun spread with a touch of margarine or sweet fruit jam.

So, during the Christmas day, never mind if you do not get any gifts at all. Be grateful to share these happy moments with family and friends, especially over a simple meal.


  1. When I just saw “PHD”, I new it was going to be crap. Zambian and African professors are useless. Try and find one thing that a Zambian professor has made and you will come back with nothing.

    • Well stated but not only professors one just has to read on here all so called financial know it alls and political analysts to understand why we are in the postion we are today

    • Hmmmm ba guy. The Man is one if my Best authors. He is a Social scientist and Dr Sishuwa is political scientist.

      Learn to respect people in their professionals.

    • @Anderson, your so called Dr Sishuwa what has has he inverted that you can point at. The best he did is support the privatization thief into becoming president. Now that he has not been given a job, he wants to start looking intelligent today. Look at the state of our economy today. Just the exchange rate speaks volumes. Fuel that drives the economy can not be talked about without some UPND cadre insulting you. Sishuwa falls in the same bracket of useless professors like Lumumba who just talks with nothing to show for. The president spent four hours in his press briefing trying hard to convince hungry Zambians that they eat in 2024.

  2. @kci advanced societies value academics-just as much as they value craftsmen. As a society progresses, academics are separated from artisanal techs so that one group can focus on ideas or thoughts that the other constructs. Society needs thinkers and craftsmen. Lumumba, Sishuwa, Mwizenge may seem like timewasters to you because you may be overly practical and therefore dont want to waste time theorising but advanced societies like the Greeks saw their need a long time ago. They are deliberately there to fulfil a progressive need

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