Saying goodbye to our loved ones isn’t easy. But if done correctly, end of life ceremonies can be a huge source of comfort for families going through the experience of grieving, and ultimately healing.
The funeral ceremonies we give our family and friends are a time when we honor who they were, how they lived their lives, and what was most important to them.
The Irish have a long history of burial traditions which have been used for centuries to allow communities come together and say their final goodbyes to the deceased.
We’ve put together a list of some of the top ways in which you can honor the Irish roots of your loved one, giving them a send-off to be proud of!
A traditional Irish wake is when the body of the deceased is brought home to the home of the deceased, for family and friends to pay their final respects. Typically, the casket will be open, with the deceased dressed in their best clothes. Wakes are busy social events. A time for all those who knew the deceased to gather. In Irish fashion, they laugh, cry, drink and tell stories of their loved one who has passed.
An Irish wake is considered a public event. Families will publish details of the upcoming Wake either in the local newspaper or over local radio. The deceased’s home is “open”, you’ll find cars parked across the pavement. People stop in and out, sometimes for 10 minutes or so, sometimes for a few hours depending on how well they knew the deceased. An Irish wake needs no invitation!
While the traditional wake can also be replaced with a “viewing” in a funeral home, an Irish Wake is still considered as an important part of the grieving process, and a communal way of celebrating the memories of the loved one who has passed.
The Irish have a beautiful way of putting into words the feelings and sentiments that are sometimes so hard to find.
One of our favourite Irish blessings is the following:
May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
The rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of his hand.
May God be with you and bless you;
May you see your children's children.
May you be poor in misfortune,
Rich in blessings,
May you know nothing but happiness
From this day forward.
May the road rise to meet you
May the wind be always at your back
May the warm rays of sun fall upon your home
And may the hand of a friend always be near.
May green be the grass you walk on,
May blue be the skies above you,
May pure be the joys that surround you,
May true be the hearts that love you.
There are many other Irish prayers and blessings out there. With a little bit of research, you’ll find the words that best describe the deceased. Irish Calling has compiled a great list of poems here.
Incorporating Irish food and drink at end of life celebrations is a sure way to honor the Irish roots of the deceased.
Irish whiskey (either Jameson Whiskey, Kilbeggen Whiskey, or Connemara Whiskey) is always a popular choice, and of course serving pints of Guinness will be a sure way to bring an Irish feel to the occasion.
Traditional Irish and Irish-American food, like corned beef and cabbage, boxty (a typical Irish potato pancake), or Shephard’s pie are also good options to consider.
Most importantly - what Irish dish did the deceased love? What was their favourite meal to cook? Did they have a speciality that they prepared every St. Patrick’s day? Reflecting on the food and drink that best represents your loved one should guide your choices here.
Bring a real sense of the homeland to the end of life celebrations by incorporating Irish music into any of the funeral celebrations stages. Either at the wake, at the funeral itself, or at post funeral celebrations.
The Irish have a rich history of music, and the deceased will surely have some favourite tracks that you can consider playing.
Were they more of a U2 fan? Did the like The Corrs? How about Celtic Thunder? Or what about some of the more traditional Irish tunes and airs?
Remember - Irish funerals are a time for celebration. We laugh, we cry, and we remember. The music you choose need not only be somber. Pick a few of the favourite Irish bands of the deceased, and incorporate them into the celebrations where you feel comfortable.
For more tips on Irish music for end of life celebrations, check out our blog here.
There are many different ways to celebrate the Irish roots of the deceased, and create a send-off that truly honors the heritage and roots of the person that we have lost.
A typical funeral in Ireland sees the family and friends toss a handful of earth on top of the caskets or urns being buried. While Irish earth is rare to come by in the USA, our Handful of Home Ceremonial Canister, is created especially for Irish funerals and holds 2 lbs of pure Irish earth. Family and friends take a handful of the old country, and scatter it on coffins or urns, and lay their loved one to rest forever more on the earth of Ireland.
However, there are many other ways to incorporate a piece of Ireland into the ceremony. Many top class Irish casket makers have caskets available to purchase across the US. One of our favourites are the Heritage Range of Caskets by Legacy Tribute, an Irish casket maker based in Scituate, MA (known as the “most Irish city in the US"). For more details on their range, check the following link.
Above all, your Irish funeral should your loved one who has passed. Their favourite food, drink, prayers, and music. How do you remember them, and how do they want to be remembered.
If you have any questions, tips, or you’d like to share your Irish funeral experience with us, please feel free to write us a comment below. We’d love to hear your thoughts!
Whether you’re an Irish family planning how to best scatter remains, or a funeral director looking to organise an Irish scattering ceremony, we’ve put together a list of the top four things to consider when planning the scattering ceremony for your loved one.