Wake Decorum

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What to do at an Irish Wake

1- Upon entering the wake house, you should first go to the corpse and say a few prayers for the soul's repose. Then, greet the family. The traditional phrase is "I'm sorry for your troubles", especially to a widow.

2-There is no mourning in the house until the body has been properly prepared.  We don't want the fairies or the Devil to catch the soul before the angels do!

3- Clocks should be stopped at the time of death as a sign of respect.  Mirrors should be covered or turned to the wall.

4- Keening (Cáoine) is more than crying; it is praise and lament for the deceased. In the past, professional keeners and bards were hired to recite the genealogy and virtues of the dead and to lead the mourning.

5- The drinking of whiskey and poteen (moonshine) has long been a part of the mourning process. It is not moderated.

6- Likewise, pipes and tobacco were considered an essential part of the wake. Smoke supposedly "purifies" the air and relaxes the mourners.

7- Food and drink are provided as the household is capable.  Neighbors contribute as needed, for a good feast is a sign of respect. Salt is also provided as a charm against evil.

8- The corpse is never to be left unattended or in the dark.  That would be worst sort of disrespect. Candles usually remain lit during the entire wake.

9- "Sing a song at a Wake and shed a tear at a birth" Songs, games and stories are a part of the wake. They celebrate the life of the deceased and continuation of life among the survivors. Giving the dead "a great send-off" is a matter of pride and a sign of respect.

10- However, the Church has tried to suppress the drinking, feasting and keening at wakes for centuries. Therefore, please tone it down if a priest happens by.