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Richtfest, the ‘topping-out’ ceremony

Richfest is a particularly pleasant German tradition on which people who are building a house give thanks to the builders and all the other people involved in the construction work. It is celebrated when the walls of the house and the roof struts have been built. A wreath with ribbons tied to it known as a ‘Richtkranz, ‘Richtkrone’ or ‘Richtbaum’ is raised up onto the roof. The head carpenter recites a poem known as the Richtspruch or the Zimmermansspruch in which he thanks the client on behalf of all the labourers for work, wages and bread and asks for God’s blessing to be upon the house. The client drinks a toast of schnapps, or sometimes wine or sparkling wine and after the poem will throw their glass from the roof. The empty glass must break on the ground and brings good fortune and blessings onto the new house. The client will hammer in the last nail and says thanks to the workers by holding a feast. Here the guests enjoy schnitzel, bratwurst, pork knuckle or other savoury, German dishes washed down with beer. Friends, helpers, neighbours and relatives are also invited along to the Richtfest.

 

RichtkranzThe Richtbaum

The Carpenter’s Poem

 

With grace and goodwill!

The ceremony is here
It rests the workman’s hand
After long, hard days of labour
The Richtbaum stands proudly over the land.

 

We’ve done a fine job
A fine building is standing
So free, light and effortless
I’ve never seen a better sight!

 

Such a work can only be done
If every man works faithfully
And all stand together
The master, apprentice and journeyman

 

And all the rewards after their precise work
For the old tradition of the Richtfest today
Where they can make themselves strong with food and drink
The mason and the carpenter

 

Today everyone is proud and happy,
Those who worked so proficiently
Those fine workmen
Who did their profession proud

 

With that, as best I can,
As strong as a carpenter
With pride upon this lordly sight,
I wish the new house good fortune

 

We ask God
Who protected us so well from all ills,
We ask Him to protect this building
From need and danger in all its forms

 

With great pleasure I take this glass in hand,
Filled to the brim with wine,
And with the fiery fruit of the vines,
Every man wants the honour I’ve been given,
Given to me by the old tradition
Of when a building has been finished.

 

The first glass is for the builders:
Three cheers for them, hip hip hooray!

 

The second sip is for the architects,
Three cheers for them, hip hip hooray!

 

Now for those who at all times
Not only need their head, but also their hand
Let praise be upon them once more, to the carpenters
Through whose strength, this building stands

 

Now the glass is empty
And I’ve not much else worth saying
So I throw this down to the ground below
Nobody needs a broken glass again
But the shards bring the luck and blessing
Of all workers!