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  • Writer's pictureKeith Groninger

Topping Out Ceremony

A Topping Out ceremony is often conducted when the construction of a new home reaches its highest physical point. I did my requisite google search and found that the ceremony is common in many countries. I also discovered that the origins of the tradition are as varied as the countries that honor it, from Egypt, Slovakia, England, Austria, Poland and Canada. Each seems to have its own story of origin and symbolic significance.

The highest structural member of the building might be adorned with a tree branch or a small tree. An evergreen branch celebrates that the workers have remained safe or a wreath around the chimney celebrates the birth of a new home. Some cultures fly a flag or attach streamers or the highest beam is painted a bright color. These mementos are used to appease tree-dwelling spirits or ward off evil spirits but they also provide hope for the occupants or wish them good luck.

The most common trait among all the different cultures is the consumption of alcohol and often food. The Dutch even have their own word. Pannenbier literally means roof tile beer. There’s no other use of the word except for relative to a topping out ceremony. The building owners bestow food and beverages upon the construction crew in appreciation of their hard work. The flag or tree branch remains until the building’s owners have provided the workers with free beer. I’m not making this up. I hope our customers are paying attention…

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