CMA Stories

6 Fun Facts About Irish Symbols

Visit the museum Sunday, September 18 for a festive celebration of Irish arts and culture! CMA is collaborating with the Irish Arts Center to host a day of art-making activities and performances inspired by Irish traditions. New York City is home to more Irish-Americans than any other city in America, and we look forward to learning more about the culture with you! We will have an Irish metalworking workshop, painting inspired by artist Sean Scully, Irish Contemporary Rock in the Sound Booth, Celtic Knots in the Clay Bar, and more!

To get you ready for the festival, we’ve put together 6 fun facts about Irish symbols. Chances are, you’ve probably come across some of these symbols in your every day and didn’t even realize their connection to Irish history and culture. Read on to learn more:

1. The Claddagh: Featuring a heart with a crown, the Claddagh is typically featured on rings and represents love, loyalty and friendship. According to Irish author Colin Murphy, the way the ring is worn on the finger can convey different relationship statuses.

  • On the right hand with the point of the heart toward the fingertips: the wearer is single and may be looking for love.
  • On the right hand with the point of the heart toward the wrist: the wearer is in a relationship.
  • On the left hand with the point of the heart toward the fingertips: the wearer is engaged.
  • On the left hand with the point of the heart toward the wrist: the wearer is married.

2. The Celtic Knot: The Celtic Knot is a stylized, intertwining knot used for decoration, commonly on illuminated manuscripts, stoneworking, and crosses. Most often, they are depicted as endless knots with their ends weaving into the beginning of another knot. Learn how to design a Celtic Knot at the Clay Bar!

3. The Shamrock: The Shamrock is a sprig of clover and has been used as a symbol of Ireland since the 18th Century. It is regularly featured in the emblems of many government organizations in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. It is also often included in the bouquet of an Irish bride for good luck.

4. The Celtic Harp: The Celtic Harp is a string instrument and its figure can be found on the Republic of Ireland’s coins and coat of arms. One of the oldest harps in the world, dating back to the 15th Century, is preserved in Trinity College’s Library in Dublin, Ireland.

5. The Triple Spiral: The Triple Spiral is a Celtic symbol found engraved on many Irish Mesolithic and Neolithic sites, most notably, the entrance to the Newgrange passage tomb in Meath County, Ireland, dating back to 3,200 BC.

6. The Flag of Ireland: The Flag of Ireland is made up of three colors: green, white, and orange. The green represents the older Gaelic tradition, while the orange represents the supporters of William of Orange. The white in the middle symbolizes a lasting truce between the two. It is flown on both sides of the border and has been the national flag of the island since 1916.

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