Ireland is home to a rugged sense of romance of dramatic seafronts, cozy turf fires and passionate loyalties. This isn’t an island of damsels in distress. We have a long history of strong women stepping up to rescue themselves, thank you very much, from the pirate queen Grainne O’Malley to heroes of the Easter Uprising such as Kathleen Lynch and Constance Markievicz. Ireland is home to a different kind of love story. Our great historic love stories are tales of loyalty and strength. Think of Grace Gifford, an artist and Sinn Fein activist, marrying her beloved Joseph Plunkett hours before he was executed by the British for his role in the Easter Uprising.
What kind of motif can symbolize that kind of romance on Irish gifts? Ireland has many symbols. Many are tied to religion, such as the shamrock and the Celtic cross. Some speak to our culture and history such as the harp or the starry plough. And some are rich in romance. The Claddagh design is the first that comes to mind for many, but Celtic knots are also a symbol of love. Which speaks to you?
The Story of the Claddagh
Richard Joyce was a fisherman in Galway, from the village known as The Claddagh. The area is not part of Galway City. He was engaged to be married. One day when he was out at sea, he was captured by pirates and sold into servitude. His master was a goldsmith. He spent years learning the craft and pining for the woman he loved. She had no way to know exactly what happened to him or if he would ever return. But he did. When he had worked long enough to earn his freedom, he returned to Galway. He brought with him a gold ring he had designed for his beloved. And yes, she had waited for him despite not knowing if he would ever return. The ring he made for her featured two hands to represent friendship, a heart for love, and a crown above the heart to symbolize loyalty. The richly meaningful Claddagh design is now seen on many types of jewelry and other Irish gifts.
The Symbolism of Celtic Knots
Celtic knots range from the simple to the intricate. They can be large or small. But one thing they all have in common is that they do not have any beginning or end. Being endless, they naturally symbolize eternity. This can be in either a religious or romantic way. Some knotwork designs have specific meanings, and some have more than one interpretation. The trinity knot is a good example of this. It traditionally represents the Holy Trinity (God the father, the son and the holy spirit), but it has been used to represent other trinities such as the past, present and future. Celtic knots are popular in Irish jewelry and other items.
If you are looking for romantic Irish gifts, these are two very rich motifs to consider whether you are looking for jewelry, a scarf or a vase. Both designs are beautiful and very meaningful when you want to make a statement with a present.