The gauge theory for strong interactions, QCD, has an apparent U(1) symmetry that is not realized in the real world. The violation of the U(1) symmetry can be attributed to a well-known anomaly in the regularization of the theory, which in field configurations called “instantons” can be seen to give rise to interactions that explicitly break the symmetry. A simple polynomial effective Lagrangian describes these effects qualitatively very well. In particular it is seen that no unwanted Goldstone bosons appear and the eta particle owes a large fraction of its mass to instantons. There is no need for field configurations with fractional winding numbers and it is explained how a spurious U(1) symmetry that remains in QCD even after introducing instantons, does not affect these results.