Why they call them "Wakes".  

rm_XTheJesterX 39M
282 posts
10/1/2005 5:57 am

Last Read:
12/4/2006 10:23 am

Why they call them "Wakes".

Back in the days of yore, often times people were buried alive for some reason or another. So, to curb the possibility of loved ones from suffering a horrible fate, they started to hold vigil's the night before the funeral. They watched the departed all through the night to make sure they didn't "Wake" before the funeral and hence the name.

It started off with just the immediate family, but over time it grew into a whole seperate ceremony from the funeral itself.

Where funerals were the more somber, highly charged religious services, wakes were traditionally the more informal, happier family gatherings.

Many different European cultures have different practices at wakes.

I'm not absolute with all of them, but there are two that I know of first hand.

Irish and Italian.

Irish wakes are the stuff of legend. Copious amounts of alcohol are consumed in honor of the departed. Songs are sung, and general merriment is had by all in attendence.

Italian wakes are a bit different.

No drinking, no singing, just a lot of hugging, and kissing, and comforting of each other. Then suddenly one of the women will burst into loud shrieks and tears. She'll fall to her knees and make quite the spectacle of her mourning.

Then not to be outdone, the other women all do the same. The small children also fall to their knees alongside these women, because that's where the small children take their leads.

Now, this whole display is supposed to be a moment of religious piety and grieving. But it really isnt. Its some sort of sport for these women I think.

So we go from being humbled by their calls to the heavens, to sadly, being amused. Especially after you can start to hear them purposfully shouting over one another.

Its bizzare.

I don't honestly know if this is how all Italian wakes go, but this is how every wake on my Italian side of the family has gone for as long as I can remember.

Anyone else have any wake behavior to share?


ThumbChickStool 33F

10/1/2005 11:12 am

People were being buried alive mostly because they were found dead drunk and passed out in the street. So not only did they start having "wakes" to see if the drunkard woke up, but they also started tying strings to the "corpse's" wrist. The string was attached to a bell above ground. If the person woke up, they could just start ringing the bell, hence our term "Dead Ringer". That's also how "Grave Shift" came to be. Someone had to sit at a post during the night shift just in case a bell started to ring.

More useless info for your everday life.


rm_saintlianna 45F
15466 posts
10/1/2005 11:52 am

Catholics eat, and bring more food, and eat some more. comfort food i suppose.


GleesFlakyShawl 50M
1620 posts
10/5/2005 1:36 pm

....well, in some spanish villages, some ladies were always invited (or even hired) becuase of their ability to cry...i guess its a mediterranean thing, ur supposed to cry at deaths


Eastside_Devil 36F

10/8/2005 6:41 am

I've only been to irish wakes, go figure, and normally yes there is a bit of bottle tipping but most of the time its people sharing stories about the dead person, there's laughter as most of the aforementioned stories are humorous to a degree and people cry, sometimes we sing, I've even danced at a wake or two. Mostly I think we reconnect with our familys though, we see people we haven't seen in a while, catch up on life and laugh at each others assorted fates, wakes always end up with those old enough and not recovering alcoholics all going to the deads favorite bar and toasting them till bar close and we all get kicked out, the funerals are quieter and more respectful because half the people are hung over or still half drunk and we could always count on my uncle to fall asleep during the eulegies. Nothing like litsening to a guy snore, his wife try to wake him up and someone singing Ave Maria all at the same time.


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