He is the grouchy, fun-loathing mayor and essential dictator of Sombertown. He hates toys (although he did enjoy the yo-yo Kris gave him for a short time) and, after he trips on a toy duck while walking out of city hall, he passes a law declaring toys "illegal, unmoral, unlawful, and anyone found with a toy in his possession will be placed under arrest and thrown in the dungeon. No kidding!" This makes the children of Sombertown even more miserable than ever and are forced to do chores instead of playing.
When Burgermeister finds out that Kris Kringle is still delivering toys to Sombertown, he stops at nothing to capture Kris and stop him from bringing fun and play into his town. Burgermeister arrests Kris along with the Kringles and the Winter Warlock, but Jessica sets them free with the help of the reindeer. Burgermeister Meisterburger vows that he and his descendants will hunt Kris down throughout the land, and labels the toy-maker an outlaw. However, Kris is able to evade the Burgermeister and his heirs and goes on to start his life as Santa Claus.
But as time goes by, things change. By the end of the special, it is revealed that the Meisterburgers eventually die off, losing their power over Sombertown. By then, the people have realized how silly the Meisterburgers' laws are, and that Kris and Santa Claus are one and the same. It is after the Meisterburger name sinks into total obscurity that Santa is no longer seen as an outlaw.
The character of Burgermeister Meisterburger is likely a caricature of militaristic German society, and has some basis in real German leaders, such as Adolf Hitler or Wilhelm II, German Emperor the Kaiser.
- Burgermeister Meisterburger is one of the few Rankin-Bass holiday special villains not to be redeemed, and like Ben Haramed, one of the even fewer not to receive any comeuppance either (other than quietly dying offscreen).