Nova Scotia

Why a Christmas tree was on the Macdonald Bridge this weekend

The evergreen was placed there by Ironworkers Local 752 as part of a topping out ceremony, a tradition that marks the completion of a big job.

The evergreen was placed there by Ironworkers Local 752 as part of a 'topping out' ceremony

A view of the Christmas tree that was erected on the Macdonald Bridge over the weekend to mark the last deck replacement being installed. (Suzanne Rent)

Spotting a Christmas tree at the end of February is unusual but even more so when one is perched some 50 metres above Halifax.

The evergreen was placed on the Macdonald Bridge this past weekend to celebrate the final segment of the Big Lift redecking project — a tradition in ironworking known as a topping out ceremony. 

For those unaware of the practice, the sight of a tree high above the harbour was puzzling.

"I'm kind of at a loss as to why the tree is generating so much interest," said George MacDougall, business manager for Ironworkers Local 752. His union did the bulk of the work on the project for the last two years.

'A symbol of hard work'

MacDougall said he's been fielding calls from reporters about the tree since Saturday, but he doesn't see what the fuss is about.

"It's basically a symbol of the hard work that has been put into it," he said. "Maybe it's not that big a deal to me because I've been on the job before."

The American flag next to the tree is a nod to the American Bridge Canada Company, the company that won the bid to redeck the bridge. A Canadian flag was also placed next to the tree. (Big Lift Halifax/Instagram)

MacDougall said the topping out tradition, which celebrates the end of a big job, is more than century old — about as old as the ironworkers' union itself.

The Christmas tree, as it's known, was accompanied by both a Canadian and an American flag. MacDougall said that's because the American Bridge Canada Company won the bid for the redecking project while Canadian ironworkers did the majority of the work.

'A fantastic thing'

MacDougall applauded everyone involved for a safe job well done. 

"This job went smooth and everybody who started there finished there and there were no lives lost," he said. "This job was incident free and that's a fantastic thing."

He said workers also took part in another tradition — signing the bottom beam on the last piece. 

"They worked through all the adverse conditions; good weather, bad weather ... a lot of guys working on the bridge didn't live in Halifax ... they spent a lot of time away from home getting that job done," MacDougall said.

"They deserve to be applauded for their hard effort and long hours."


Anjuli Patil


Anjuli Patil is a reporter and occasional video journalist with CBC Nova Scotia's digital team.