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Barbórka - Miner's Day in Poland

Updated: Dec 3, 2019

Coalminers' Orchestra Poland

Barbórka - Miner's Day - is celebrated on December 4th.

This is the colloquial name for the memory of Saint Barbara, the patron of miners, which is why Barbórka is celebrated above all in Silesia (coal mining district of Poland).

It can be said that this day of 4th December is a regional holiday, although in the People’s Republic of Poland (PRL) – i.e. the communist times, it was used by the authorities for propaganda purposes.

The festival was celebrated then in all of Poland. In addition, the miner's day tradition is known throughout Europe, especially in the Czech Republic, Austria, Germany and Belgium.

Apart from the miners, Barbórka is also celebrated by geologists and other people involved in the exploration of fossil fuels.

Szczesc Boze, Poland, Coalmine

The origin of the holiday is associated with Saint Barbara, who lived at the turn of the third and fourth centuries and who was beheaded by her father for making the weddings of chastity.

For this horrible deed, her father was struck by lightning, and Barbara – the martyr, after being elevated to the altars, began to be considered the patron of all people exposed to sudden death at work, especially miners.

The cult of Saint Barbara arrived in Poland from the Czech Republic at the turn of the 17th and 18th centuries.

The feast called Barbórka appeared in the middle of the 18th century in Tarnowskie Góry. Initially, it was primarily a religious ceremony, related to the celebration of a holy mass and ceremonial galas of miners. Over time, the feast was enriched with many secular customs, among which the most important was the visit to the beer taverns.

Many superstitions connected with the Miner's Day have also survived in the folk tradition.

The most popular is forecasting the weather for Christmas judged by the weather on this day ("Barbórka po wodzie - Święta o lodzie" meaning Barbórka is frosty cold the coming Christmas will be rather moist).

In addition, in Silesia on St. Barbara’s women should not do certain housework, for example, they should not sew, so as not to prick the finger, which would foretell painful death.

Poland, Mass, Coalminers

Currently, the celebration of Barbórka is associated with prayers in churches for miners, organizing ceremonial mining rallies in gala uniforms, awarding prizes to the most prominent men in work and feasting in taverns.

These feasts start with singing of the mining anthem, then there is fun with beer and pork knuckle, according to the saying "Whoever does not drink on Barbórka, he will meet his end in the mine".

The barbarian rituals in taverns have a strictly defined order, over which the President of the Beer Tavern resides over.

On this day, young adepts a take up the profession - they take an oath and perform a traditional jump over the a piece of animal hide...

Barborka, Wieliczka

Barbórka is on the National List of Intangible Cultural Heritage.

This list is one of the forms of protection of cultural heritage, which results from the 2003 UNESCO Convention of the Protection of Intangible Cultural Heritage signed by Poland.

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Poland, Coalmine

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