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Cultural Spotlight: Irish Funeral History and Upcoming Trends

by | Nov 3, 2017 | Cultural Spotlight, For Families

Ireland landscape

Here in America and in most of Canada, we have funeral traditions that have stood the test of time for decades, even centuries.

But our traditions are vastly different from those in other countries and cultures.

This is a special edition of our series that highlights how different cultures care for their dead. We’ll look at Irish funeral history and upcoming Irish funeral trends discussed during the 2017 NFDA Convention workshop titled Ireland is Green and Growing presented by Jennifer Muldowney.

Traditional Irish Funeral

Funerals have always been a big deal in Ireland. If you could go back in time to an old Irish funeral, you’d find a home wake followed by an elaborate Catholic funeral service and traditional burial.

Especially in rural Ireland, families kept the body at home for viewing. It was and still is important today for families to view and spend time with the body. The women in the family would look after the body to make sure it remained unharmed.

There also is the folklore called the Banshee, the woman of the fairies. The Banshee has three possible disguises: a young woman, matron, and an old hag. And legend says if you hear her scream, a death may be near in your family.

Irish Funeral Today

Today, an Irish funeral has a mixture of old and new traditions. They’re more of a celebration, as it’s said Irish people cry more at weddings than funerals.

At an Irish funeral, you’ll find Irish dancing, singing, and lots of eating and drinking. It’s like a social gathering for catching up with family and friends. And the Irish are known for their detailed storytelling, so what better way to honor and remember loved ones?

Although some rural areas have home wakes, today most viewings are at a funeral home. Cremation also is slowly gaining popularity in Ireland. Since it’s a dominantly Catholic country, cremation wasn’t acceptable for a long time. But today with only two in 10 people choosing cremation, burial still has the lead.

Check out this cultural spotlight article to learn more about Irish funeral traditions.


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