Early Christmas trees in Salzburg, Austria.
I woke up in early October to a sound of great cheering as a group of builders were putting a decorated Fir tree on top of a building that they had just completed.
Why are they celebrating Christmas so early?
I was told that the tree has nothing to do with Christmas, but it is an ancient ritual of “completion” of a building in Salzburg.
Some traditions hoist the tree once the highest point has been reached in the construction of a building.
Once the roof is completed and there have been no casualties the Fir tree is hoisted to the top, so all the village and towns folk know that the construction has been successfully completed.
The trees were decorated so that all the villagers would be aware that a completion party of celebrations were about to begin.
What a great way to let everyone know about accomplishments and the celebrations that would follow.
It was also thought that the ritual would bring good luck to the future occupants of the building.
The tradition originates from Scandinavia in 700 A.D, and the trees were called “Topping trees”.
All structures at that time were made from wood which required trees to be cut down to produce the timber for construction. The placing of a tree on top of a newly constructed building was a way of appeasing the forest dwelling spirits who lost their homes in the trees as the trees were cut down to provide timber for the construction of new homes.
It is said that “Topping trees” in America became popular because that Native Americans believed that no building should be taller than any tree. In a land where the sky is the limit, one way to get around this was to erect a tree on top of the building after completion thus keeping, tongue in cheek, to the ancient tradition of buildings not being taller than trees.
In some parts of the world the trees got replaced by flags but I still prefer the old traditional way of hoisting a decorated tree with lights on to celebrate the completion of a construction.