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Readers blog: Does the Irish wake belong in the 21st century?

“In Ireland when somebody dies, we lay ‘em out and watch ‘em for a couple of days” - Dave Allen, comedian.


Anytime I have queued up for an Irish wake I have felt butterflies in my stomach as I dreaded what I was about to see.

In Ireland, we live and thrive on traditions.

At a wake, we lay out the deceased body and talk about the days when he was alive, we eat, drink and share stories. We do all of this while being in the company of someone we once knew and do our best to act normal.

I think that while it may comfort some it can also haunt others. In other countries this isn’t what’s done, other nationalities see this as being very unusual and quite scary.

Anytime I have seen a body laid out in a casket, whether I knew the person well or not, they have looked nothing like they did before.

In Ireland if you know someone in the deceased person’s family you are automatically expected and almost obliged to attend the wake. You may have seen the person once or twice or never before and are expected to see them for the first time as they’ve passed. How can this be normal? How can such an old tradition still be carried on?

A dead body can look empty, as if the person who was once inside has disappeared. We all get scared seeing something so unnatural. Yet this has continued to live on as a major tradition in our culture, which makes me think, is Irelands view on death morbid?

The answer is yes, it is completely morbid.

This tradition that obliges Irish people to not only view but spend time in the company of someone outside of their own family who has deceased, while eating, drinking and sharing stories is not normal.

Our ancestors have carried on this abnormal tradition for centuries. We are in a time now where mental illness has increased majorly, in particular anxiety.

The majority of people with anxiety disorders will agree that they have at some point feared and obsessed about the thought of death yet we as Irish people  normalize the viewing of a dead body at a wake.

We are now in the 21st century and our countries anxiety caused by these traumatic experiences is more of a problem than ever before.

Ireland needs to shift from this morbid tradition and start adjusting to the 21st century.

Aoife O'Rourke is a 20 year old Journalism and New Media student from Ennis Co. Clare.

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