The mining festival of St Barbara’s Day – “Barbórka”

(Based on the article by professor Maciej Mazurkiewicz “Klika uwag o rodowodzie zwyczajów górniczych kultywowanych w naszym górnictwie(English: A few words about the origins of the mining customs maintained in our mining industry)  


In December 1919, the Mining Academy in Krakow hosted the first “Barbórka” with “a jump over the leather apron”, following the traditions that had originated in Loeben. The celebrations took place in the premises of Krakow’s “Grand Hotel”. The subsequent “Barbórka” festivities, until 1936, took place at the Old Theatre (Teatr Stary). “The jump over the leather apron” was participated in by all first-year students. Each of them had their own “godfather” who held the leather apron and later acted as a mentor throughout their period of study. A certain “novelty” of the festival was a miners’ ball (dance party) organised by university organisations. It was part of the mining festivities.  


The new reality of 1945 brought a significant increase of student numbers. Therefore, it was no longer possible for each student to perform their “jump over the leather apron” during the celebrations.   


During the Miner’s Day celebrations, the Loeben’s night parades taking place after the end of evening beer parties were replaced by:


  • Parade of Foxes, which went on from the AGH UST main building (and more precisely, from Reymonta St) to the Main Market Square. The Rector, Vice-Rectors, Deans of the faculties of the Mining Section, as well as “high-ranking officials” of the industry were seated in hackney carriages, while the employees and students walked with torches along the streets of the city, accompanied by a mining orchestra. Full dress or “casual” uniforms were obligatory, which in those days students were provided free of charge. The procession was led by a mining superior on a horse. For many years, the mining superior was professor Witold Żabicki, possibly the greatest eulogist of mining traditions “of all time”. At the Main Market Square, the parade was welcomed by the city authorities, including the President (Chairman of the City Council). Greetings were exchanged and toasts were made, typical of Krakow, with mead. The celebrations contained many elements characteristic of the student festival “Juvenalia”.  


  • Traditional miners’ meeting, i.e. a tavern get-together generally happens 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. “Security services” are appointed, and they adopt different names depending on the contemporary political situation and the inventiveness of the event organisers. 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 the case in the past.