Barbórka, Miners' Day (St. Barbara Day), December 4th

One of the most celebrated days associated with workers group is St. Barbara's Day on December 4th. St. Barbara is a patron of coal miners.

Miners' profession was always considered dangerous but prestigious therefore this day called "Barbórka" or Barburka" (there was a long battle between puritans of the Polish language which form is correct) was celebrated for centuries in a spectacular way. The name of the feast originate of course from St. Barbara as a patron. Read about Polish saints and patrons.

Miners are dressed in the special uniforms during Barbórka. The uniform consists of black suit and hat with a feather. The color of the feather (white, red or black) depends on the rank of the miner. Miners wear their decorative uniforms not only during Barborka but also for weddings, funerals and other important political or social ceremonies. Below is a picture of miners in their decorative uniforms with beautiful red feathers.

Barbórka is a time for miners balls. Miners from coal-mines of Silesia and Zaglebie do not work underground during this day but participate in festivities. A big ball takes place each year in Kraków's University of Mining and Metallurgy (AGH) which collides with a time of Advent.
For years coal miners belonged to one of the strongest workers' union. There were thousands of them. In the past miners (especially coal miners) had special benefits like no any other working group because coal mine was considered a highly priced export product (read more about it in an article The Work Ethics in Poland (I); New Class System build by Communists . Not anymore. It seems that coal industry is not competitive with other countries, some mines have to be closed completely or their activity is reduced to minimum. Read more about it in the article Coal Mining in Upper Silesia & Heavy Industry in Poland during the Communism. Besides, there is a huge problem of the environmental pollution and the waste in mine industrial regions. Check also the story of my grandfather and what happened to him when he was a miner - Polish Legends- Skarbnik - Miner's Guardian.

Barbórka is celebrated not only in Poland but also in other countries of the region with strong mining tradition like in Germany and in Czech Republic. In Germany the celebration is called "Barbarafeier".

St. Barbara is not only a patron of coal-miners but also a patron of geologists, mathematicians and many others professions. Her patronage is linked with the fact that according to the legend she was imprisoned in a tall tower. Her imprisonment led to association with variety of construction professions. Her festivities take place in geological institutes and universities of Germany and Austria. Read St. Barbara Story HERE. St. Barbara is also connected strongly with the Orthodox Church's tradition.

To prevent accidents miners used to build chapels devoted to their patron, St. Barbara. HERE is her beautiful sculpture from Germany. St. Barbara is also a very celebrated nameday in Poland because Barbara is a popular feminine name.

We had in Poland over hundred mines! Besides black and brown coal also copper and silver are excavated and also salt. But salt miners have their own patron, St. Kinga. St. Kinga's feast is on July 24th. See one of her chapel in Wieliczka here. Read more about St. Kinga in the article St. Kinga - Patron of Salt Miners

written by Jagoda Urban-Klaehn, 4 December 2002 (article #68)

Below is a link to Polish customs' book written by Sophie Hodorowicz Knab, Mary Anne Knab (Illustrator). It is entitled Polish Customs, Traditions and Folklore

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