The Symbols of Ireland

The Harp

The harp, of the small portable type played by Celtic minstrels, is the oldest official symbol of Ireland. Through not as recognizable as the shamrock, the harp is widely used. It appears on Irish coins, the presidential flag, state seals, uniforms, and official documents. But the harp is most often associated with Guinness, which adopted the harp as its trademark in 1862.

The Shamrock

The shamrock is undoubtedly the most identifiable symbol of Ireland. Shamrock comes from the Irish Gaelic word Seamrog, a word that refers to the plant's three leaves. Legend has it that during a religious debate with the Druid priests, St. Patrick plucked a shamrock to demonstrate the mysteries of the Christian Trinity--three leaves held together by a single stem. Whether or not this story is true, the shamrock is regarded as the national plant of Ireland and always worn on St. Patrick's Day.

The Irish Flag

The Irish tricolor flag made its debut in 1848. It was based on the French tricolor; however, the colors were altogether Irish. One outside band was made green, the color that had long been used as a symbol of the Catholic majority. The other outside band, a stripe of orange, was chosen to represent the Protestant minority. And the middle band of white represented their unity.

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