“A VERY IMPORTANT part of the Irish way of life is death”.
Comedian Dave Allen was fairly on the money when he kicked off a sketch about Irish funerals with this quote. He continued:
In Ireland when somebody dies, we lay ‘em out and watch ‘em for a couple of days… and there’s drinking and dancing and all the food you can eat.
Of course the passing of a family member, friend or acquaintance is a sad time for all involved, but there are certain things that make an Irish funeral unique – the customs, the grub, and yes, even the craic.
Here’s how you can be absolutely sure you’re at a traditional Irish funeral…
Someone asks if you’re going to the removal, or the mass, or both
This depends on many factors: how well did you know the deceased or the family? Can you get off work to go to the mass? How far away is the church? Will there be a feed afterwards?
“Are you going up to the house?”
If there’s a wake in the house you might “go up”, get a cup of tea in your hand, stand around the coffin for a while, and tell a few stories. There will be a lot of hand clasping and half talking/half whispering. There might be sandwiches.
Irish funerals feature a lot of queuing up to shake hands. It can sometimes be tricky to know what to say:
“He does a lovely funeral”
Hopefully the funeral will be celebrated by a priest who does a good mass.
People will want to be talking about what a lovely ceremony it was and “doesn’t he do a lovely funeral”. Sure what else will they talk about immediately afterwards?
Someone will stay behind in the house to ward off opportunistic robbers
A neighbour must be appointed to this task. Everyone knows that would-be-burglars listen to the death notices to see where there might be easy pickings during the funeral.
Be Not Afraid will be played
This is a staple of Irish funerals
Somebody will say “it was like a celebration really”
This is often said when the mass is over and everyone feels a little relieved, and is looking forward to the sandwiches.
Often the most memorable part of an Irish funeral – and the most comforting for the family – are the stories. Old friends and relatives will tell tales of the person’s life, peppered with laughs and tears.
Sure what better way to send someone off than with a feed of pints?
Local politicians or TDs might make an appearance
Sandwiches cut into triangles in the pub
It’s a rule of Irish funerals that the sandwiches must be cut into triangles.
There might even be a bit more grub… some cocktail sausages, or even a whole meal.
Somebody will say “we must all meet up at a happier time”
You never will though.