The festive season is a time to celebrate; a time to re-unite with long lost family and a time for Santa to wear his red and white costume.
Today, we unveil Stenbock Oceg—the Santa Claus at the Children’s Christmas party organized by the office of the First Lady, Jeannette Kagame.
Born in 1964 in Burundi to Stenbock Leon and Theresa Mukamusoni, he is the sixth child amongst 12 siblings. This probably explains his charm with children and social character.
“The fact that we are many in our family has helped me to associate with several people. At least not less than 20 people of different age groups, at a time are at our home daily. This explains where my source of inspiration to love children comes from,” Oceg said.
Raised in Burundi, Oceg went to Stella Matutina Primary School, Ecole Francaise for secondary school education and later, Ecole technique superior de Kamenge where he got his A1 Diploma.
After the liberation struggle, Oceg moved back to his home country where he had never set foot before. Even though his father was not Rwandan, his mother was and she was forced into exile in 1957.
The father of four returned to Rwanda in 1994—at a time when several nationals were returning from exile—and embarked on the journey to develop his country.
Oceg owns a poultry business stationed in Kabuye Gasabo district.
At 47 years, he is determined each year to bring joy to as many children as he can every festive season. He prides himself in giving children gifts and watching the big smiles form on their faces.
The jovial Oceg, said the first time he acted as Santa Claus, was the hardest task yet still, it brought him pleasure when he remembered that it was his opportunity to meet the ones he calls his best friends—children.
Oceg could not hide his excitement when he was asked to be Santa at the children’s Christmas Party.
“I was extremely humbled by the surprise call but my love for children compelled me to take heed,” he said.
“Back in the day as children, we knew that there was a real Santa but when I turned 17, that is when I realized that there is no real Santa,” he says.
Tharcilla Byimana, his wife, says she is lucky to have Oceg for a husband; she daily thanks the good Lord for a man who loves children so much.
“He is good around children and when he is with them, he goes an extra mile to make them happy even more than I do (she laughs),” said Tharcilla.
“Ever since we had our first born, who is now 15 years old, to the time we had our youngest daughter, who is two, he has never gone to sleep before checking if the mosquito net is well fixed, windows are closed or, if everyone is fine—something I rarely do,” Tharcilla happily said.
Some men do not like to socialize with children but having a family, according to Oceg, is something else altogether.
“Family is about loving your children and making them your best friends. My older children were very happy when I told them that I had to be Santa,” he said.
The Oceg family has a heart for vulnerable children, especially orphans and those living in harsh conditions.
“We feel that all children, regardless of the harsh conditions they live in, deserve the best,” he said.
Oceg encourages all parents to make the tradition of giving gifts to their children, a habit.
“On Christmas Day, my children are awake by 6:00 a.m to check under the Christmas tree and see what Santa has brought them. They believe he exists and this keeps the Christmas spirit alive,” Oceg said.