What is a Wake?


After someone has died you might hear people use the term wake and you might be wondering what it means.

You might assume this term is interchangeable with “reception” or “viewing”, and sometimes people use it like that. However, the a wake is a tradition with a very specific meaning and context that separates it from other pre- and post-funeral gatherings.

Traditional Wake

This is a pre-funeral gathering where loved ones sit with and observe the body of the deceased. Traditionally this is done at home, with the casket placed in a parlour or common area – open for viewing.

Today, wakes can take place in a funeral home and are often called viewings. Viewings can also occur during a visitation with an open casket. Some differentiate a wake and a viewing as a former is often more of a social event. Wakes are also considered more religious than viewings.

The term “wake” comes from old English and literally means to keep watch.

An Irish Wake

Traditionally, funerals, wakes, memorials and visitations are solemn events. However, in the Irish tradition a wake is a celebratory gathering.The Irish believe that the dead and the living must come together. The wake takes place in the home of the deceased and it is decorated with special items significant to the dead. The casket should be placed near an open window to allow the spirit to leave peacefully. In a way, Irish wakes are very superstitious.

The deceased is dressed in their best clothes and candles are lit at their feet and head. Some drape rosary beads over their head. So, while it’s a celebration of life, it’s still steeped in religion and spirituality.

At Chapel Ridge Funeral Home

Here at Chapel Ridge Funeral Home and Cremation Centre we accommodate a wide variety traditions. If you would like a viewing and/or visitation in addition to a funeral or memorial services.

Contact us and we will gladly listen to all of your wishes and ideas. We can arrange a traditional wake or a modern visitation or reception. We can arrange catering and help you with all the details.