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.
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 of Jamaica
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.
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.
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.
Lyrics: Hugh Sherlock, July 1962 Music: Robert Lightbourne (arranged by Mapletoft Poulle), July 1962
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.