Updated: Jul 17, 2021
Jamaican Independence; Jamaican Heritage; Jamaican History; Jamaican People
The emblems and symbols of Jamaica’s Independence are a reminder of Jamaica's national goals, values, and history. The National Flag, the Coat of Arms of Jamaica (more correctly, the State Arms of Jamaica), and the National Anthem are the national emblems. The four national symbols are the ackee, the Swallowtail Hummingbird (popularly referred to as the Doctor Bird), the Blue Mahoe, and the Lignum Vitae flower.
The choice of the national emblems and symbols were made through consultation with the Jamaican nation at large. This was done so that the country and the world in general would grow to accept these emblems and symbols as representative of the many facets of Jamaica’s political, cultural and economic life.
During this season of "Emancipendence," Jamaicans adorn cars, houses and business places with national symbols in a show of patriotism and celebration of nationhood. Of course there are rules governing their appropriate use.
I can recall the excitement of nationhood as the new flag of Jamaica was hoisted at the National Stadium on Independence Day, August 6, 1962. Perhaps that’s why I so proudly wear “things Jamaican” – showing off the creativity and warmth of Jamaicans. This is what I share with you through “the Jamaican Experience”: our culture, attractions, people, and products.
Here are the Jamaican National Symbols which are cherished proudly by Jamaicans as it speaks to our character as a people and nation:
The National Symbols and Emblems of Jamaica
The National Symbols of Jamaica
The Jamaica Flag
The Jamaica National Flag came into use on August 6, 1962, Jamaica’s Independence Day. It was designed by a two-party committee of the Jamaica House of Representatives. The present design emerged from those sent in by the public in a national competition. It was originally designed with horizontal stripes, but this was considered too similar to the flag of Tanganyika (as it was in 1962, only the yellow stripes are thinner), and so the St. Andrew’s cross was substituted.
The flag consists of a gold saltire, which divides the flag into four sections: two of them green (top and bottom) and two black (hoist and fly end). It is currently the only national flag that does not contain a shade of the colors red, white, or blue. The Flag follows the “Admiralty Pattern” (a standard of flag-making) and the proportion is 2 x 1.
Hoist: 1) The vertical height of a flag. ; 2) The side used to attach the flag to a pole. ; 3) The raising or lowering of a flag on a pole.
Fly: The furthest edge from the hoist end.
New Symbolism as of 1996 – “Hardships there are but the land is green and the sun shineth” is the symbolism of the Flag. Black symbolizes the strength and creativity of the Jamaican people; Gold, for natural wealth and beauty of sunlight; and Green stands for hope and agricultural resources.”
Original Symbolism – “Hardships there are but the land is green and the sun shineth” is the symbolism of the Flag. Black stands for hardships overcome and to be faced; Gold, for natural wealth and beauty of sunlight; and Green stands for hope and agricultural resources.”
The National Anthem of Jamaica
"Jamaica, Land We Love" is the national anthem of Jamaica, officially adopted in July 1962. It was chosen after a competition from September 1961 until March 1962, in which, the lyrics of the national anthem were selected by Jamaica's Houses of Parliament.
Adopted: 19 July 1962
Lyrics: Hugh Sherlock, July 1962
Music: Robert Lightbourne (arranged by Mapletoft Poulle), July 1962
The Anthem is the creative work of four persons, the late Rev. and Hon. Hugh Sherlock, OJ, OBE; the late Hon. Robert Lightbourne, OJ; the late Mapletoft Poulle and Mrs. Poulle (now Mrs. Raymond Lindo).
All persons should stand at attention at the playing of the National Anthem and men should remove their hats. Persons in uniform should salute.
The first verse of the National Anthem should be sung and/or played on the arrival and departure of the Governor-General and of the Prime Minister.
The National Anthem may be sung and/or played on occasions of public gatherings.
Singing of the National Anthem should form part of the ceremony of raising and lowering of the Flag at the beginning and end of term in schools and at Independence Celebrations.
Eternal Father bless our land Guard us with Thy mighty Hand Keep us free from evil powers, Be our light through countless hours. To our Leaders Great Defender, Grant true wisdom from above. Justice, Truth be ours forever, Jamaica, Land we love Jamaica, Jamaica, Jamaica land we love.
Teach us true respect for all, Stir response to duty’s call, Strengthen us the weak to cherish, Give us vision lest we perish. Knowledge send us Heavenly Father, Grant true wisdom from above. Justice, Truth be ours forever, Jamaica, Land we love. Jamaica, Jamaica, Jamaica land we love.
The Jamaican Coat of Arms
The original Coat of Arms granted to Jamaica in 1661, was designed by the then Archbishop of Canterbury, William Sanderoft. Apart from a partial revision in 1957, it remains virtually the same as was originally designed. The Arms shows a male and female Arawak, standing on either side of the shield which bears a red cross with five golden pineapples superimposed on it. The Crest is a Jamaican crocodile surmounting the Royal Helmet and Mantlings. The original Latin motto, “Indus Uterque Serviet Uni”, which means “The two Indians will serve as one” has been changed to one in English: “Out of Many, One People” on July 13, 1962 (The year of Independence).
National Flower, Tree, Fruit and Bird
With the approval of the Cabinet, a select committee known as the National Flower Committee, was appointed initially to make recommendations for the choice of a National Flower. They were later asked to extend their activities to include the choice of a National Tree, a National Fruit and a National Bird.
The Jamaica Horticultural Society had been giving consideration to the choice of a National Flower from 1959. A short list of 14 flowers had previously been prepared and given wide publicity to determine public opinion. Based on the response, the Jamaica Horticultural Society recommended to the National Flower Committee that the flower of the Lignum Vitae be chosen as the National Flower of Jamaica. This suggestion was approved.
The Flower Committee also recommended that the National Tree should be the Blue Mahoe; the National Fruit, the Ackee; the National Bird, the Doctor Bird or Swallow-Tail Humming Bird. Widespread use of the national symbols – the Flower, Tree, Fruit and Bird – should be encouraged for souvenirs, decoration, paintings and design.
Lignum Vitae (Guiacum officinale): The National Flower
Lignum Vitae is indigenous to Jamaica and was found here by Christopher Columbus. It is thought that the name “Wood of Life” was then adopted because of its medicinal qualities. The tree grows best in the dry woodlands along both the North and South coasts of the island. In addition to shedding an attractive blue flower, the plant itself is extremely ornamental.
The wood is used for propeller shaft bearings in nearly all the ships sailing the Seven Seas, and because of its use in ship-making, the Lignum Vitae and Jamaica are closely associated. The wood is also used in the manufacturing of curios, sought after by visitors and nationals alike. There is also a thriving export trade.
Blue Mahoe (Hibiscus elatus): The National Tree
The Blue Mahoe is so beautiful and durable that it is widely used for cabinet making and for making decorative objects such as picture frames, bowls and carvings. The inner bark of the tree is often referred to as ‘Cuba bark’ because it was formerly used for tying bundles of Havana cigars.
This has been regarded as one of our primary economic timbers. It is currently much used for re-afforestation and is a valuable source of cabinet timber. Of an attractive blue-green colour with variegated yellow instrusions, it is capable of taking a high polish showing to advantage the variety of grain and color tones. The trade, local and foreign, consumes annually many thousands of feet of this beautiful timber.
Ackee (Blighia sapida): The Jamaican National Fruit
Ackee was originally imported from West Africa in 1778 and was probably brought here in a slave ship. It now grows luxuriously, producing each year large quantities of edible fruit. The tree was unknown to science until plants were taken from Jamaica to England in 1793 by Captain William Bligh of “Mutiny on the Bounty” fame, hence the botanical name “Blighia sapida” in honor of the notorious Sea-Captain. One of the earliest local propagators of the tree was Dr. Thomas Clarke who introduced it to the Eastern parishes in 1778.
Jamaica is the only place where the fruit is generally recognized as an edible crop, although the plant has been introduced into most of the other Caribbean islands (Trinidad, Grenada, Antigua, Barbados), Central America, and even Florida where it is known by different names, and does not thrive in economic quantities.
Ackee is derived from the original name “Ankye” which comes from the Twi language of Ghana.
Doctor Bird (Trochilus polytmus): The National Bird
The “Doctor Bird” or Swallowtail Humming Bird lives only in Jamaica and is one of the most outstanding of the 320 species of Humming Birds. The beautiful feathers of these birds have no counterpart in the entire bird population and produce iridescent colors, characteristic only of that family. In addition to these beautiful feathers, the mature male has two long tails which stream behind him when he flies. The Doctor Bird has been immortalized for many decades in Jamaican folklore and songs.
The origin of the name "Doctor Bird" is somewhat unsettled. has been said that the name was given because the erect black crest and tails resemble the top hat and long tail coats doctors used to wear in the old days. Other schools of thought believe that it refers to the way the birds lance the flowers with their bills to extract nectar.
According to Frederic Cassidy, the bird is an object of superstition. The Arawaks (the first recorded inhabitants of the island) spread the belief that the bird had magical powers. They called it the “God bird,” believing it was the reincarnation of dead souls.
This is manifested in a folk song which says: “Doctor Bud a cunny bud, hard bud fe dead.” (It is a clever bird which cannot be easily killed).
Story of Jah Mek Yah Jewelry
Jah Mek Yah jewelry designs are inspired by the Humming Bird with its long tail sweeping behind it. This Jamaican product will be available shortly on the Jamaica So Nice Shop.
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An editor/writer with years of writing experience running the gamut from blogging to report writing. She lives in Kingston, Jamaica and is the chief writer for the Jamaica So Nice Blog. She is a trained engineer and musician and loves to see people transformed through her work.