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be not afraid

How do you know if you're at an Irish funeral?

The sandwiches MUST be in triangles.

“A VERY IMPORTANT part of the Irish way of life is death”.

Comedian Dave Allen was fairly on the money when he kicked off a sketch about Irish funerals with this quote. He continued:

In Ireland when somebody dies, we lay ‘em out and watch ‘em for a couple of days… and there’s drinking and dancing and all the food you can eat.


Of course the passing of a family member, friend or acquaintance is a sad time for all involved, but there are certain things that make an Irish funeral unique – the customs, the grub, and yes, even the craic.

Here’s how you can be absolutely sure you’re at a traditional Irish funeral…

Someone asks if you’re going to the removal, or the mass, or both

This depends on many factors: how well did you know the deceased or the family? Can you get off work to go to the mass? How far away is the church? Will there be a feed afterwards?

“Are you going up to the house?”

If there’s a wake in the house you might “go up”, get a cup of tea in your hand, stand around the coffin for a while, and tell a few stories. There will be a lot of hand clasping and half talking/half whispering. There might be sandwiches.

Flickr/Creative Commons/Wonderlane

The handshaking

Irish funerals feature a lot of queuing up to shake hands. It can sometimes be tricky to know what to say:

“He does a lovely funeral”

Hopefully the funeral will be celebrated by a priest who does a good mass.

People will want to be talking about what a lovely ceremony it was and “doesn’t he do a lovely funeral”. Sure what else will they talk about immediately afterwards?

Someone will stay behind in the house to ward off opportunistic robbers

A neighbour must be appointed to this task. Everyone knows that would-be-burglars listen to the death notices to see where there might be easy pickings during the funeral.

Be Not Afraid will be played

This is a staple of Irish funerals

YouTube/Maureen Ward

Somebody will say “it was like a celebration really”

This is often said when the mass is over and everyone feels a little relieved, and is looking forward to the sandwiches.

The stories

Often the most memorable part of an Irish funeral – and the most comforting for the family – are the stories. Old friends and relatives will tell tales of the person’s life, peppered with laughs and tears.

The drink

Sure what better way to send someone off than with a feed of pints?


Local politicians or TDs might make an appearance

Sandwiches cut into triangles in the pub

It’s a rule of Irish funerals that the sandwiches must be cut into triangles.

There might even be a bit more grub… some cocktail sausages, or even a whole meal.

Somebody will say “we must all meet up at a happier time”

You never will though.

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