The Irish Wake

This week was hectic. Amongst the stuffs I did this week I also attended a funeral. This was the first funeral I attended in the U.S. and it was very different from the funerals that are shown on the TV or the movies. The funeral was not even called a funeral it was The Irish Wake.

My friend invited me to the funeral of her mother’s aunt. I was not sure if I should attend it because I have no idea how to act in a funeral or what to say to the relatives of the deceased and I had no idea who she was. But she insisted that I should accompany her to the “wake party” (yeah she said party). She said that I would “enjoy” the funeral and the traditions because it was not a typical funeral. I don’t know how cynical my friend thinks I am to “enjoy” a funeral. Despite of it not being a typical funeral, the dress code was black cocktail dress for ladies. I decided to go and it was quite an experience.

The wake was held in the deceased’s home. It was a small home with a tiny porch in a small town of North-East Texas. My friend and I reached there a little late because it was a long drive from Denton. I don’t know what they did before we reached there but when we arrived to my surprise, it looked like a party except there was a dead body in the casket. There were candles around the casket and people were dancing around it. Most of them were drunk. Some of them were even smoking pot. The dead body was in an open casket; it/she was dressed in her best clothes with some makeup on. But the ravages of her illness were obvious. She looked like a dead person.

Apparently, in the Irish wake you can also bad-mouth the deceased in a humorous manner. So the deceased’s son-in-law threw some of his frustrations (he had heavy southern accent). It was quite funny and it was totally okay to laugh at it. After the bad-mouthing ritual there was “keening and crying” process. The daughter of the deceased and some other people (I don’t know how they were related to the dead) wailed with a depth of sorrow for a long time. It was heartbreaking to see the daughter cry. I had confused emotions while I was there. I don’t know if all The Irish Wake rituals are the same or maybe it varies with families.

The whole process seemed bizarre to me especially because that is not how a Hindu funeral looks like in my country (I have only attended a Hindu funeral in Nepal). The mourners wear white. There is no laughing and singing. The mourning period continues until the 13th day after death. The chief mourner (usually the son of the dead) shaves his head and is expected to wear all-white throughout the year. I can’t say if the ritual of wearing white all year long is a good thing or bad but it always made me sad whenever I saw the mourners in public. And for my funeral? I don’t care what others will do with my body after I am dead. I will be dead anyway. But, it would be really cool if I could haunt. I already have some names on my haunting list.

Irish wake according to Urban Dictionary:
An Irish wake is basically a party after the death of a family member or friend. Usually used by family members to get drunk and tell stories, usually inappropriate, about the deceased.