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 "Barborka" 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.
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.
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 was considered a highly priced export product. Not anymore. It seems that coal industry is not competitive with other countries, some mines had to be closed completely or their activity reduced to a minimum. Besides, there is a huge problem of the environmental pollution and waste in mining industrial regions.
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.
To prevent accidents miners used to build chapels devoted to their patron, St. Barbara. Barbara is also a very celebrated and popular name in Poland.
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.
To find out more on the subject, checkout a book written by Sophie Hodorowicz Knab, Mary Anne Knab (Illustrator), entitled Polish Customs, Traditions and Folklore