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7 Signs That You’re at an Irish Funeral

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Posted August 14, 2013 by Sinéad Keogh in Humour
Coffin-in-ground

Death is depressing and sad and funerals are awful. When you’re young, they can be somewhat of an awkward inconvenience – you’re dragged to the home of a neighbour or cousin and never quite sure what to say. As you grow up, the senseless and inevitability become clear to you. Knowing what to say is still difficult, but the rituals of saying goodbye start to become more understandable in their meaning. Without warning, one day you will become astute at handling death. And even though it’s awful and sad, you’ll start to observe the darkly hilarious goings on of every Irish funeral ever. Here’s how you’ll know you’re there.

THE FOOD

The absolute shamefulness of you, showing up at literal death’s actual door without a plate of sandwiches or a few scones. There is a very clear menu where wakes and funerals are concerned. There must be rounds of sandwiches. There must be tea. There must be ‘something hot’ for the family. An Irish funeral would be a good place to find yourself when the apocalypse kicks off, because you’ll be eating your way out of there for 4 years.

THE ROSARY

The rosary means different things to different funeral attendees. For the lapsed Catholics, it means trying to exit the wake room all nonchalant like as soon as the priest appears or risk coming out in a cold sweat if they’re called upon to say a decade. For religious oul wans its a bloodsport. There are only so many decades of the rosary to go around, and they’ll bate the head off you with a handbag to take you out of contention.

THE IRREGULAR MASSGOERS

Ever watched someone struggle with knowing when to sit, stand and kneel? That’s some funeral comedy

for all the family right there. We recommend sitting near the back to get the full birds eye view of everyone royally ballsing up their mass moves. It’s just not like the Macarena lads, you won’t remember it years later as soon as the music starts up.

THE POLITICS

Funerals are magnets for local TDs. They also inevitably draw at least one person who ‘shouldn’t have the nerve to show their face’. Spend an hour in an average wake house and you’ll definitely hear conversation along the lines of “What’s that Fianna Fáil bollix doing here? Looking for votes I suppose.” and “What’s that bitch doing here? The nerve.” For added funeral fun, start a rumour that you saw someone unwelcome dropping a mass card into the pile or queueing for a sandwich and watch the bile spew forth.

THE OLD WOMAN

Someone you don’t even know will wail beside the coffin for at least six hours, only stopping to repeat ‘ah jaysus isn’t it fierce?’

THE STRANGE COMPLIMENTS

Irish people can’t take compliments. We all know that ‘thanks, Penneys’ is the polite response to anyone liking your outfit, even if it’s straight out of Brown Thomas and cost you a month’s salary. You should also reject anything positive about your looks, wit or success. In death, we lose our catlike readiness to bat away anything resembling a positive comment. And so the neighbours traipse in and use the opportunity to compliment the corse, unhindered.

Someone will say the corpse is ‘looking well’. Maybe even ‘ten years younger’. And didn’t he ‘die with a smile on his face’.

It may be supposed to be of comfort to those left behind, but it’s a bit fucking weird to announce that someone is looking the best they’ve ever looked only after they’ve shrugged off the mortal coil and are boxed up, waiting for the ground.

THE CRAIC

The thing about funerals is that while they’re terribly sad they also tend to be, conversely, great craic. Black humour finds several openings throughout proceedings. There’s the obligatory recounting of all the best stories about the deceased. It’s the first time the extended family of 83 people have gotten together since the last funeral. Despite everything, funerals are banter.


About the Author

Sinéad Keogh

Sinéad is a striking girl. Not attractive like, just prone to lashing out.

  • Rikke Holdgaard

    Brilliant – that just sums up the one Irish funeral I’ve been to! And yes, being non-Irish and non-Catholic I totally ballsed up the standing up sitting down thing. And yes, there were mountains of food (three-course meal) preceded by hot whiskey and followed by copious amounts of Guinness. Great craic altoghether!

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Brian-Shanahan/595609999 Brian Shanahan

      Pro-tip on the standing up, kneeling & sitting down, just stay sitting, arms crossed in front of you. And if the priest starts looking at you, glower like you’re Lt. Worf the morning after drinking too much blood wine. It works every time, guaranteed.

  • Karen Mulreid

    Ha, this is perfect. My Dad died just a few months ago and his funeral was exactly like this. And the best thing was, we planned none of it! The sandwiches just appeared, as did the priest. The prayers just started magically. People who hadn’t seen Dad in 42 years stood by the coffin wiping their eyes muttering ‘terrible terrible’. My Dad lost a lot of weight before he died, but because he had always had a big belly people said things like ‘Jayze, he lost a ton of weight! Doesn’t he look brilliant! The weightloss really suits him!’ totally missing the fact that he lost weight because he had horrible cancer! Oh no, don’t let that get in the way of the ‘And he used to be the size of a house!’ comments. He was practically an advertisement for Weight Watchers lying there. Of course, it goes without saying that we were devastated, but the ritual of the sandwiches, the craic, the chat, the Rosary really genuinely helped. We felt we gave him a good send off, we reconnected with family, you know? Just the feeling of a full house, all there to say goodbye, all there to hold our hands and stand with us, it was brilliant, in a really strange way.

  • Ciaran O’Brien

    I intend my funeral to buck all of those trends if possible. Sod all the moany wailing, I want dancing girls and beer, a live band playing wildly inappropriate songs, and a competition for most unflattering eulogy. Maybe people can write messages on my corpse like it was a cast for a broken arm.

    The typical Catholic funeral is dull and depressing, it focuses on the loss, instead of celebrating the life of the deceased. I want people to enjoy my funeral.

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