Irish Wakes

Where Getting Drunk is Considered a Funeral Celebration

What is a wake?

The traditional Irish Wake was commonplace around Ireland up until about the 1970's. This was the process of laying out the body of a departed relative in the house where they lived and /or died. All of the family and quite a few of the deceased ones neighbors and friends would gather at the house. The body was usually in a coffin in the parlor of the house or living room. There would be lots of food and plenty of drink to be consumed. People would come and socialize and remember the departed person's life. This wasn't a time for tears to say the least, it was more of a party than a funeral. It was the traditional Irish way of celebrating one's life and ensuring that they had a good send off.

Legends and Folklore

The Druids

The native people of Ireland, the Druids, invented the wake. They used it as a ritual to keep the demons and spirits from entering the dead body after it had passed, as it was vulnerable to possession. They performed plays and sang songs, and many of these songs were mocking the Christians. Many of these customs are still practiced today in rural parts of Ireland.


Some storybooks say the “Wake” was originally used as an ancient Jewish custom. As it traveled to Ireland another legend was made (which is almost certainly a myth.) It is said that the tradition of the wake in Ireland came about as a result of the frequent lead poisoning suffered by drinkers of stout from pewter tankards. A symptom of this malaise is a catatonic state resembling death, from which the sufferer may recover after a period of time. For fear of the dead walking again, family members would keep the body and watch it. When (if) they woke up they would ask them questions and keep them under quarantine until the family knew they were not evil spirits. Another reason for keeping the body was that so family members would be there and celebrate when their loved ones returned from their sleep.

Modern Wakes

The wake is held in the home of the deceased accompanied by family members, and is held the night after the person passes away. The atmosphere is respectful and you may hear both laughing and crying as people recall stories about the deceased. Typically, some families may hire "mourning women" to wail and cry over the deceased to show how much they are missed. When entering the house, it is mandatory to shake the family member’s hand that greeted you then proceed to the body and say a prayer while standing next to it, then you may mingle with family members. The body is often laid on blankets on the floor or in the coffin or sitting on the floor. Candles are then placed around the body. Family members sit on the floor next to the body and finger foods are shared. Expect to see lots of people sitting around drinking tea, eating sandwiches, biscuits and cakes and chatting – even in the room where the body is laid out. It is all very respectful.

So what about the drinking?

There is a lot of it.
Funerals for Irish people are basically their excuse to party hardy. They want to celebrate the dead person's life as much as possible, and what better way to do it then whiskey for all present? Wakes tend to last about a week, and every day is a different celebration. Those Irish....haha :D


Even though Irish Wakes are very religious and innocent at the start, by the time the body is laid to rest, everyone is pretty much WASTED. But to them, its a proper send off. YAY PARTIES!!