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Christmas Trees Symbolize More than Just the Holidays.

Topping out is a popular custom in the steel construction industry, a practice that dates back to Scandinavian and Native American cultures. Although the exact history isn’t specific, topping out signals that the highest steel piece is going into place and that the structure is as high as it was planned to be. You may have noticed a flag flying high over a steel project, but also as common is the placement of an evergreen tree.

An article in The Ironworker from December 1984 explains, “the evergreen symbolizes that the job went up without a loss of life, while for others it’s a good luck charm for the future occupants. For some, the flag signals a structure built with federal funds, but for others it suggests patriotism or the American dream.”

According to history, civilizations have celebrated the construction of structures as early as 621 BC. Whether it was structures in ancient Rome or China or churches or buildings in the Middle Ages, special ceremonies and blessings have taken place to mark the completion of construction and ensure the well-being of those using the space.

To this day in Germany – where many believe the Christmas tree was first invented – they hoist evergreens to the top of buildings upon completion. Just like the Christmas tree is used to celebrate the nativity of Jesus Christ, they use an evergreen to symbolize the birth of a new building.

Although flags are more common in topping out ceremonies today, the ancient tradition of the evergreen lives on. Whether you’ve seen the tree atop a steel construction project or have one in your home for the holidays, this tree is an important symbol to many.