National symbols may be official and unofficial. Flag and anthem refer to the first group, while floral and fauna emblems, folk costume or some signs are associated with a state by its residents and other nations. However, all of them reflect country’s history and traditions.
Northern Ireland as a country with rich culture has its own emblems and symbols that are taken there very seriously. Some of them are well-known everywhere; some are taken for granted by the nation only.
The three-leaved clover or the shamrock is one of Ireland’s most recognizable symbols. According to the legend, St. Patrick, the patron of Ireland, illustrated the concept of the Holy Trinity with the help of shamrock during the process of Christianization of the state. Since that time people always wear the plant on Saint Patrick’s Day that is the Irish national holiday. Besides, the rival militias also used the shamrock as their emblem during the late 18th century events. The nationalist group called the United Irishmen chose green color as their revolutionary one. The shamrock is used in emblems or logos of various organization, firms and establishments.
The Emerald Isle has its own folklore personage – a leprechaun – a little man (gnome) in green coat and hat who always does mischief and has a hidden pot of gold. Being caught by a man he offers him three wishes to go free. His image is widely used for tourist and television industries.
The Irish harp or the Gaelic harp has a very long history being a symbol of Ireland. The legends say about magical powers of this instrument (they say it reflects the immortality of the soul) and its first usage by King David as his badge. The harpists were highly trained and regarded professionals who performed their masterpieces for the nobility as it was very difficult to learn how to play this instrument. The harp has been used on Guinness labels since 1876. It also figures in various mythology stories.
There exists a legend about two contestants who had a rivalry for being the lord of the province of Ulster. The race winner would have become a ruler. When one of them – O’Neill – saw that his woe should have won, he cut his hand off and threw it ahead claiming the rights for the lordship. The red color symbolizes O’Neill’s blood. The red hand has been used by both Protestants and Catholics.