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Richtfest: A German Tradition Posted by on Jun 28, 2017 in Culture, Language, Traditions

Hallo! Wie geht’s? Today I’d like to introduce you to a German tradition called Richtfest. I only learnt about this recently, as my parents are having their roof re-done and my mum said she wanted to get some beers for the builders once the roof is finished, “like they do at a Richtfest”. Naturally, I had to learn more – and now I’d like to tell you all about it, too!

Das Richtfest – What is it?

Put simply, Richtfest is where people who are building a house, or having some major renovations done on their house, give thanks to the builders and all involved in the construction work with a mini-ceremony. People involved include der Bauherr – builder, der Baumeister – architect/master builder and der Zimmermann – carpenter. The Richtfest typically occurs when the final beam is added to the roof of the new build.

What happens at a Richtfest?

A giant wreath called der Richtkranz is used to decorate the roof of the house, and a speech or poem known as der Richtspruch is spoken to mark the completion of the build and declare the house ‘open’. This speech usually calls upon God to bless and protect the house. The ceremony usually involves a Prost (toast) with Schnaps or another alcoholic drink.

Here is the first part of a typical Richtspruch:

Verehrte Gäste

Viele Stunden sind vergangen,
seit man das Werk hat angefangen.
Wände stellen, Dachstuhl richten,
all der Zunft gerechten Pflichten.
Es floß der Schweiß bei Sonnenglut,
gelobt sei Gott, es floß kein Blut.

 

Dear guests,

Many hours have passed
since we began our work.
Putting up walls, laying the roof,
And all of the duties approved by the guild.
The sweat was flowing in the heat of the sun,
Thank God there was no blood flowing.

 

This tradition is not unique to Germany; it happens in many countries. In the UK this ceremony is called ‘topping out’.

The wordy stuff

The word das Richtfest roughly translates to ‘roofing ceremony’ or ‘build celebration’. The word richt comes from the verb aufrichten – to erect/set up, and das Fest is the German word for celebration. You may also see das Richtfest under the names das Bauheben, das Weihefest, das Hebefest, or die Hebfeier.

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About the Author:Constanze

Servus! I'm Constanze. I'm half English and half German. I write here because I'm passionate about my languages and my roots. I also work as a translator & group fitness instructor.


Comments:

  1. Dan:

    Nice! I remember seeing these often when I was a kid living in then-West Germany. The rooftop wreaths, that is. I never saw one of the mini-ceremonies. There was a lot of new residential construction going on around us.

  2. Oriella:

    Thank you Constanze, very interesting!
    In my city (Bologna, Italy) we have a BANDIGA which is a big party to celebrate and thank people when you put the roof on the house… The name comes from “tavola imbandita” which means big banquet table full of a huge amount of food (of course, we are in Bologna the fat city!!!)

  3. Alexis Klug:

    I absolutely LOVE this blog! It’s helped me learn the language and A LOT about German culture. Danke for taking the time to write these blog posts, it really makes my day. 😁


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