Irish Funeral Traditions and Customs
Death is a cornerstone of all cultures and communities; the mourning and celebration is something which unites us all.
In Ireland, the tradition of the wake has spanned generation and is still common among most Irish families today.
It’s a bittersweet way of honouring the life of a departed loved one and often brings comfort to those who perhaps did not get a chance to say a final goodbye.
In this post, we’re going to give you an overview of the Irish wake and provide an insight into some of the local funeral customs which accompany it.
The Irish Wake
Although the exact origin of the wake is unknown, it has been part of Irish culture for generations. As Ireland becomes more diverse, wakes are less common in Irish cities and metropolitan areas but it is still a respected and followed tradition in the majority of the country.
Where is a wake held? A wake is usually held in the home of the deceased or a close loved one. A room is prepared for the departed and their remains are usually placed close to an open window, to let their spirit peacefully leave the house.
Candles are often placed at the head and the foot of the deceased and in years gone by, clocks would often be stopped at the time of death, mirrors would be covered and curtains would be closed. This is less common now but many will still adhere to these customs.
What happens at a wake? The body of the deceased is usually ‘waked’ for one to three evenings, where loved ones will be invited to the house and escorted to the room to see the body.
The coffin will usually be open and the body will be visible, with the deceased dresses in their best clothes, sometimes with a Rosary wrapped around their hands.
You can spend a few minutes with the body of the deceased to grieve and say a prayer. Following this, you will be led out of the room to get some refreshments with the other visitors.
Who goes to a wake? Most often, the wake is attended by those who were close to the deceased; family or good friends but some families will extend the welcome to anyone who knew and cared for their loved one. The atmosphere at a wake is sombre, but you may see people laughing through their tears as they share memories of their lost loved one.
The removal and funeral procession
The wake will usually last for a couple of days, to allow visitors from far away to come and visit. Following this, ‘removal’ will take place, wherein the body will be taken from the home to the local church or place of worship.
The coffin is usually carried by six males and if the procession passes the house of the deceased, it will stop as a mark of deceased.
The following morning there will be a funeral mass, usually lasting for around an hour. During this time, the priest and other loved ones will celebrate the life of the deceased by sharing stories of their achievements.
Once the mass has taken place, the body of the deceased will be brought to the graveyard or cemetery, where family and friends can attend the burial.
After this, everyone will be invited to a house, bar or community location for some food and drinks to toast to the deceased and honour their memory together for one last time.
Kilternan Cemetery is a multi-denominational cemetery, set in a scenic parkland in South Dublin, offering peace and tranquillity to all visitors. Find out more…