What is a Wake? It’s your Choice.
A wake or visitation is an opportunity to get together and to offer support to the family in their time of grief.
While many people feel the need to isolate themselves when a loved one has died there are those who wouldn’t be able to get back on their feet again without the help and support they get from family and friends.
With a wake the body is present. A wake can take place at the funeral home or at the deceased’s own home. The occasion allows viewers to come to these venues in the days leading up to the funeral.
Most times wakes are open to anyone who wants to come and show their support but in some instances the family will stipulate that it is only open to a select few family members and special friends.
Sedate or Riotous Wake – Take Your Pick
Wakes are not all the same and while some people prefer them to be sedate and organised. Because they are social gatherings sometimes, depending on culture and traditions, they can be demonstrative. There can be those lamenting in a loud way, while others may be dancing, clapping hands and singing.
Wailers in Great Demand
Irish wakes and funerals are perhaps the most well known because they are mostly large affairs with open, raw emotions on display. Their wakes date way back to the 12th century already where their funerals and wakes were all the proof one needed to see how the deceased was a loved member of the community. In fact at these funerals, old women with the loudest cries were held in high regard and they were actually in great demand for attendance at funerals.
The traditional Irish Wake for instance was where the body was laid out in the house where they lived and died. All friends and family would gather at the house, and with lots of food and drink to relax everyone, people would arrive to socialise and also remember the departed person’s life and to to give them a rowdy send-off.
Waking the Dead
It is interesting to note that the word ‘wake’ means to wake someone from a deep sleep and to behave in such a way that it is impossible for the person to fall back into that deep sleep.
It is not surprising that some wakes are unrestrained, because the people are doing just that – making sure that their partying and socialising is enough to wake the dead. This practice of ‘waking the dead’ is an ancient one, and in fact, in ancient times, funeral feasts were held which involved games and contests of skill as well.
Visitation Rites to Say Your Final Farewells
Today the term wake is often referred to as the Visitation which is a modern funeral custom where friends and family come to the funeral home to offer their condolences and to pay their respects.
Sometimes there is a viewing before or during the visitation, allowing people to take one last look at the deceased and to say their final goodbyes before the burial, officially closing off a certain chapter in their lives.