The Irish [i.e. Catholic] wake here, as well as elsewhere, is a scene of mirth rather thansadness. The body of the deceased is laid on the earth, and covered with a sheet; two candlesare placed near it, and the company is entertained with pipes, tobacco and snuff. Whiskeywas formerly given in great abundance on these occasions, but being found to be the causeof riot and other improprieties, it has been long since prohibited by the Roman Catholicclergy.
Hospitality commensurate with the deceased’s social position was apparentlyexpected at wakes. Piers tells us that families of similar social standing to thedeceased might contribute to the food and drink supplies for the wake—to anextent sometimes beyond their means. Thus “... if the party deceased were ofgood note, they will send to the wake hogsheads of excellent stale beer and winefrom all parts, with other provisions, as beef &c.” (Piers 1770, 125–6).It is not clear from this account if some of the provisions supplied to the wakehouse were also intended for a post–burial meal, but Piers notes that elaboratefeasting took place at the month’s mind, when masses were said in the house forthe soul of the deceased, four weeks after the burial.
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