The sledge of the Hamburg Christmas market

Flying Santa

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For 17 years, a sparkling sleigh has been whizzing above the Rathausplatz Christmas market. Inside, the christmas-crazy tightrope walker Rambo Bügler. Our author Lena Frommeyer had a look behind the scenes of this Hamburg tradition.


Lena Frommeyer

Lena Frommeyer is a journalist by trade. She searches for topics in the niches of society and surveys the cultural landscape.

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Photos: Claudius Schulze

Santa Claus climbs the balcony, stops to adjust his black leather gloves. Then he grabs the rope, pulls the sledge towards himself and makes a surprisingly nimble descent into the perilously swaying vehicle. Before the up high, he adjusts the red Santa hat, then takes the reindeers’ reins and starts the flight across and over the Hamburg Rathausplatz.

Three times a day he repeats this procedure. The glances of the Christmas market’s visitors go up. There is a tightrope, all the way from the big Christmas tree by the Alsterfleet to the eastern wing of the town hall. From here, Santa Claus whizzes past their heads. “Ho ho ho”, it sounds from the speakers. Inside the costume has been the same man for 17 years. His name is Rambo. And he is a pro.

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Flying Santa: Rambo Bügler

Rambo Bügler hails from a famous family of tightrope artists, he has even been baptised high up as a child. With his wife and children he travels the world. Recently, he did a headstand 62 metres aloft and rode a motorbike on a tightrope. Next year, the family will leave to the Arab peninsula for a booking. In the meantime, Rambo is Hamburg’s Santa Claus. For four weeks. A tradition.

“When I did it the first time, I was only 13”, he remembers. At the time, the Circus Roncalli organised the first historical Christmas marke in Hamburg’s city centre. And where there was a circus, there have to be performers. Back in the days, there was still a cloud fixed under the sledge, on which Rambo’s later wife, Ramona, sat, dressed up as an angel. “We were very nervous”, the 30 year old says. “During the first interviews, my spokesman whispered to me what I should say”.

He is more tranquil today, and strolls across the market after the show, poses for selfies with little children and excited ladies. “Hello, Santa Claus”, people shout from everywhere. Even in the light drizzle, a christmasy atmosphere arises. In the beautifully lit stalls the craftspeople are working. A blacksmith is hitting is metal, bakers put doughnuts into the hot oil. In the toy alley you hear the click-clack of wooden toys and the nostalgic carousel from 1932 is spinning merrily. Every year, up to three million people come to Hamburg to see the magic.

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"I am just Christmas-crazy”.

Rambo, too, can’t get enough. “All year, I am excited for this. I am just Christmas-crazy”, he admits. “I watch Christmas movies in summer and go to Christmas fairs in the middle of the year.” His own costume has been made by craftspeople of Hamburg’s market for the greatest part. It has to meet certain requirements.

“All year, I am excited for this. I am just Christmas-crazy”

Rambo Bügler

In two hours, he’ll be back on his sledge, tells his story about the reindeers — and makes many people’s faces light up with smiles. His wife is no longer part of the show. “We have two little kids ourselves now. They should spent the Christmas time at home”, says Rambo. His daughters are four and six years old and they grow up with the family’s tradition. Part of this is their dad helping Santa Claus in Hamburg. Or is there more behind it? Just to clarify: Rambo, are you the real Santa Claus? He hesitates and then gives a self confident answer: “I don't know any other man with a red suit flying over Hamburg. Do you?”