It can be said that builders in the construction industry are like a big family, and just like families, have their own festive traditions just not for their homes, but for their sites. During the holiday season, you may see decorated Christmas trees perched atop a structure or a building under construction. You will look at these and have so many unanswered questions, such as why is it there? Why is it decorated? What is its purpose? What does it symbolise?

This article is going to explore and reveal the onsite festive traditions builders have and why.   

On many construction sites, builders partake in a tradition called ‘topping off’. The tradition is originally celebrated in America and Europe and indicates when the last beam is placed on top of a structure or when the highest point of a structure is raised. It’s used to signify the finishing of the structure and is seen as a project milestone. It’s glorified by placing an evergreen tree on the highest point or beam of the project and to further emphasise the meaning flags can be attached to the tree and workers often go for a drink or a meal to celebrate their hard work and achievement. 

The ‘topping off’ tradition originates from an ancient Scandanavian custom which symbolises the structure’s connection to the forest and celebrates the life being brought to the build. It began by attaching sheaves of grain to the highest beam and, as the tradition has become more popular in Europe, entire trees are displayed atop the site. 

In more recent years, the tradition has been shaped to mark the start of the festive season. The closer Christmas gets the more these trees are decorated. The trees are given the Christmas touch as they are decorated with bright coloured lights and streamers which celebrate the most wonderful time of the year. 

The trees can also be used to signify the hard work that has gone into creating the structure and in the past have been used to honour life, if a life was lost during the project. In Egypt, a plant would be placed on top of a completed pyramid to honour the slaves who died building the structure or during the project. 

Building shelter is a stone-age tradition which is constantly and will continually be carried out, therefore the ‘topping off’ tradition celebrates this age-old method. There are many different variations of this tradition however, they all use the evergreen tree to signify luck, positivity, growth, achievement and safety. This tradition and celebration is used this time of year to signify that Christmas is coming to town, where feelings of joy and positivity can be always found!  ‘Tis the season and let this jolly and festive tradition continue. 

Click HERE to read our Christmas in Construction feature in PBC Today.

BA featured in PBC Today