The current flag of Jamaica was officially adopted in August of 1962, after a public, national competition and in honor of Jamaican Independence Day. It’s commonly referred to as The Cross. The same design serves as both the national flag and the civil ensign.
Before Jamaican independence, it was part of the Federation of the West Indies, which was protected by Great Britain. From 1875 until 1962, several variations of the flag existed. It featured the flag of Great Britain in the top left corner of a blue field and a circular seal just off center. The seal’s appearance changed over time, but it always included a heraldic crest with an alligator over top and a red cross with pineapples.
After breaking from the Federation, Jamaica settled on its current flag. Its design includes a yellow cross, also called a saltire, which divides the flag into four sections. The top and bottom two sections are green, while the side sections, called the hoist and fly, are black. Originally, the flag was designed with three horizontal stripes, one each of green, yellow and black stripes, but that option was rejected for being too similar to the Tanganyikan flag. A second proposed option used five stripes instead of three: one wider black stripe in the middle, green on both the top and bottom, and two yellow stripes separating the green ones from the black one.
As in many countries, etiquette rules apply to the Jamaican flag. The National Flag Code codifies these rules, which includes provisions requiring it to be the primary flag in any place. It also requires flown flags to be in good condition.
The flag’s three colors represent several different aspects of Jamaican culture. It hints at the Scottish and Irish ancestry cherished by much of the population. Additionally, since black, green and gold are Pan-African colors, it represents Jamaica’s black population, which is in the majority. In one interpretation of the flag’s colors, the yellow stands for the sun, the black for hardship and the green the land. A different interpretation cities the black as a symbol of the strength and creativity of the Jamaican people instead.