On December 4th Poland celebrates those who have one of the hardest profession in the world, miners. Being a miner was always considered dangerous but at the same time prestigious. This day is called “Barbórka” and has been celebrated for centuries in a spectacular manner. The name of the holiday originates from St. Barbara, a patron of good death and difficult work. As miners often say, the movement of time and reality changes with life underground. The typical greeting for miners is Szczęsc Boze (God Bless) it is said that a casual ‘good day’ is good for those working under a beautiful, sunny sky.
To prevent accidents miners used to build chapels devoted to their patron, St. Barbara. St. Barbara is also a very celebrated “Nameday” in Poland, Barbara is a popular feminine name. In the mining tradition, Barbórka begins with the morning Holly Mass in the church or in the miners’ guildhall by the figure of Saint. Barbara. After the service, the miners dressed in gala uniforms and hats with plumes start the procession through the streets of their cities. The brass band plays the most important role in the march, it is a background for the participants who sing the mining anthem. During this occasion, concerts, artistic performances, games and balls are organized, in which entire mining families participate.
In Poland there were over hundred mines, besides black and brown coal there was also copper, silver and salt. However salt miners have their own patron, St. Kinga. Polish coal mines are mainly concentrated in Upper Silesia.
An important element of Barbórka are traditional miners’ meeting, also called a tavern get-together. To this day the meetings are carried out according to the traditions established many years ago. It is led by the presidium headed by the chairman, who “are never mistaken in beer matters”. The room is divided into two rows headed by their leaders, sitting at two tables the miners compete with each other. During the meetings a gala costume is also obligatory. Punishments and prizes are decided, and duels are fought between the rows, with the main beer challenge. The basic instructions are given in Latin, as it was performed in the past.