In Ireland, you will see all sorts of local color throughout the country, and you’ll also see a huge amount of local pride. People identify strongly with the county where they were born and raised, regardless of where they live now. Someone born in County Mayo, for example, will identify as a Mayo man or woman whether they live in Dublin or Boston. In cities and villages, the Gaelic Athletic Association is the backbone of the community, providing healthy exercise and entertainment for all ages with Gaelic football (similar to soccer), hurling and camogie training and matches at all levels from preschool aged children at the community level and adults at the county level. GAA flags and shirts are popular Irish gifts.
On match days, the roads are often lined with team flags. If a local team is playing, their local colors will be seen along the backroads outside homes and farms. When county level matches are on, they are often held in Croke Park in Dublin City. Along the motorway from each county to Dublin, the county colors will be proudly displayed from overpasses and at other visible spots. Pubs will often display the colors of both county teams when they are showing televised GAA matches live.
Irish counties have their own coats of arms as well with a design that represents some aspect of the county’s history or highlights. Some counties have coats of arms that date back to the 17th century. Most, however, are much more modern and were created or adopted after the founding of the Republic of Ireland, although the symbolism used might be much older. The county coats of arms became official in the 1940s. Many coastal counties have a boat in the coat of arms. Galway’s features the distinctive Galway hooker boat, and ships are featured in the coats of arms of Cork City (County Cork does not have a formal coat of arms), Donegal and Waterford among others. County flags feature the county colors with the coat of arms in the middle. Shirts, key fobs and other items featuring the county flag with its coat of arms make nice Irish gifts for people born in Ireland or their children or grandchildren who know which county holds their roots.
Another part of the county identity is in the motto, and the joking stereotypes about people from various counties. Years ago if someone announced he was from Mayo, the response from people from anywhere else in Ireland was ‘God help you’. This exchange can still be heard between older Irish people and is mostly said in jest now, although it comes from Mayo being so devastated by the famine in the 1840s. Cork is known as the rebel county because of historical battles from the 1400s to the War of Independence and Civil War less than 100 years ago. Now it is jokingly referred to as ‘the People’s Republic of Cork’.
Anyone looking for Irish gifts for someone who can trace their roots back to a county can find anything from t-shirts to beautiful wall hangings to celebrate that county.