»Glück Auf!« is the miners salute. But it is more a shortcut for »I wish you luck (Glück), open up (auf) a new lode«.
As a greeting though, which was uttered essentially on shift changes or rather on shift
beginnings below ground, this sentence was clearly way too long. This is roughly comparable to »See you, all the best«, which would be, in it’s full extension, »I will see you again soon, I wish you health, luck, and much more«.
For the lack of technical methods to take measurements, it was unpredictable in former times whether the work of the miners would succeed or not. So they partially worked on the off chance, they never knew exactly where the next lode was to be found.
But »Glückauf!« was also wished in the meaning of »Wish you luck to get back up«. Working many feet or even miles underground, a certain bit of luck was necessary, too, to ascend savely back to the surface.
Though the Ruhr’s mining will be discontinued toward the end of 2018, and regarding that
already today a lot less mines are still active than in the Ruhr’s heydays, the »Glückauf!« is still very popular — not only in the mines still active (where it is a simple »Auf!« sometimes, a true Ruhrian will always find a way to shorten everything). »Glückauf!« is used as a formal address in letters (even outside the Ruhr), and letters of the RAG company close with »With a kind Glückauf«.
The football club FC Schalke 04 welcomes the crowd with »Glückauf!« at every home match, by playing the Steiger Song. Lately rumours are going, that this might also become the greeting at a big Mega Event in the Ruhr.
With a kind Glück Auf,