by Charles McGrath


We must be getting "old" with all the postings related to Jule's "Funeral Homes" (Funeral Homes by Newark Talk Collective). As Jule indicated initially people were laid out at home.

How many remember when a person was viewed (laid out) at home? A wreath of flowers was placed on the front door of the house? The wake lasted three days. Food and much alcohol were present to anoint the living. I assume the three days were related to the time frame of the Crucifixion to the Ascension of our Lord. Today it is usually only one day.

As I have mentioned many times in the past the groups with the most humor are the Irish, Jews and Blacks. I guess this humor was a defense against prejudice and ridicule.

The Irish wakes (of old people) that I was exposed to were something else. There was no crying and wailing. But there was a lot of drinking. I remember once that somebody said that poor Pat (the corpse) looked cold. A couple of guys lifted him up and put a coat on him. Someone always sat by the casket for 24/3 out of respect. Some people if they came a distance would also sleep at the house of the wake.

I remember this family story of a wake. Many people came to a relative's wake in Newark from Pennsylvania. As usual there was a lot drinking. Sleeping accommodations were made for the travelers with the limited facilities available. People slept where ever they could find a spot. A glass of water was given to most to soak their dentures. During the night someone's Irish humor kicked in. That person switched everyone's glass that contained a denture. In the morning the gagging, spitting, choking and yelling of the guests was hilarious.

God bless Irish humor even at wakes.


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