Why Celebrating Like The Irish Should Be An Everyday Activity At Your Funeral Home


The Irish sure know how to throw an amazing celebration… St. Patrick’s Day is a great testament to that.

Whether they’re laughing, drinking, singing, yelling (or, most likely, doing a combination of all of above), one thing is for certain: no one celebrates life and lives it to the fullest quite like the Irish do.

So it only make sense that Irish funerals are just as full of celebrations and shenanigans as their St. Patrick’s Day parties. Just check out the video below, for example. (Warning: There is explicit language…what else would you expect from the Irish?)


The video above was not taken at a rowdy wedding reception, or at an epic birthday party that broke out into karaoke. It was taken at a funeral wake. (One that was happening inside of a pub in Kerry, Ireland, to be more specific.)

The room was filled wall-to-wall with friends, family members and well-wishers who wanted to come together to celebrate the passing of someone they knew and loved, and one of the ways that they did that was by joining together to sing (loudly and proudly) a tune that paid tribute to their beloved Mr. Foley — Mr. Brightside by The Killers.

And while many of us not familiar with the traditions of an Irish funeral may be shocked to see all of this fun, merriment and celebrating happening on such a sad occasion, we can’t help but ask ourselves why all funerals are not this way.

Celebrating like the Irish should be an everyday occurrence at funeral homes… not just one that they break out for St. Patrick’s Day, or the rare Irish wake. Here’s why…

1. Today’s Families Want More Of An “Irish Funeral”

Every day, more and more families are rejecting the idea of a traditional, religious funeral service. No longer do they want the dark, somber traditions and customs that their grandparents had at their funeral services. Instead, they want a unique, one-of-a-kind celebration of life that is personalized to the life that they are honoring.

Black, formal funeral garments? Don’t even think about it. A typical funeral visitation? How about a life celebration at the local pub instead. These are no longer oddball requests that you get from the rare family here and there… they are slowly becoming a custom for today’s more celebration-focused funeral services. Just take a look at the image below that we shared in one of our recent shocking funeral statistics blog posts

Many of the above trends are already taking place overseas or in Irish funeral customs. According to a 2014 UK survey, funeral guests are much more likely to hear Monty Python’s ‘Always Look On The Bright Side of Life” than popular funeral hymns. And in a study of 30,000 funerals, only nine songs in the top 20 choices of funeral songs were traditional or classic pieces. It’s only a matter of time before these changes become a norm in the United States, as well.

2. The Irish Use Life Celebrations To Tell A Story

Memorial services and celebrations of life are not just popular among today’s families because they are different and trendy. These types of services actually offer a value that many families believe funeral traditions have lacked in the past… namely, putting the focus back on sharing memories and telling stories.

Everything about a traditional funeral visitation or service makes it hard to get comfortable, open up and share stories and memories. When a family walks into environment where there is a somber attitude, wall-to-wall dark clothing and an uncomfortable, unnatural setting, all they want to do is close up… or get out of there as fast as they can. It’s not until family and friends get to a point of comfort and ease — typically at a post-funeral luncheon or in the comfort of their home with friends and family — that they begin to open up and share stories.

So how can funeral homes bring the celebration of life back into the funeral home? By taking a cue from the Irish… incorporate personalized elements into every aspect of the funeral service, bring post-service celebrations into your funeral home (yes, even food and drinks), and do whatever it takes to encourage memory sharing and celebration.

To learn more about how you can accomplish this, check out this blog post → How To Bring Storytelling And Celebration Back Into The Funeral Home.

3. Irish Wakes Have Something For Everyone

Traditional Irish wakes and life celebrations do not leave any aspect of mourning or grieving out of the funeral process. One second people will be laughing, singing and sharing funny memories, and the next there will be tears of sadness as another meaningful story comes to light. There are extremes of highs and lows — because that is what the real picture of life looks like.

What makes Irish funerals and wakes so valuable is that they let each person mourn in the way that is most effective and healing for them. And they get to do so in a safe environment, surrounded by friends and family who understand what they are going through.

Maureen Walton, President of The Cemetery Exchange, LLC, put it best: “When my grandfather passed in 1987, we had our own version of an Irish wake. (Yes, we are Irish.) We had the funeral home for two full days. The third day was broken up for a high mass in the morning and then the burial. We laughed, cried and caught up with family members we had not seen in quite some time. And yes, we drank and some of us drank heavily! But what I was left with was the meaning of ‘eternal life.’”

“We talked about him, remembered things he did, how he used to make us laugh, what he taught us, and we got to learn how he affected other members of our family and what he meant to them,” she said. “We were blessed as he passed at 99 years and 6 months. He was also the most touched corpse at any funeral I had ever been to. We all could not keep our hands off him. It was the send off he always wanted and we made sure to do it right. In our family, this is how we say goodbye and how we will always say goodbye – with days of friends and family!”

4. Irish Celebrations Of Life Help Jumpstart The Healing Process

We talk all the time about the importance of memory sharing and storytelling at a funeral service. But why are these actions so darn important? Namely, because are they the single best tool that many friends and family members have when it comes to healing after the loss of a loved one.

Claire Carrano, Health Aid and Caregiver at Home Health Aid, is a wholehearted believer in the power of storytelling. “When my brother died it was a 5 day celebration of his life with people coming in and out telling us the stories we needed to hear to start the healing process,” she said. “The stories of joy and of his inspiration in the lives of those he touched. After the 5 days of non-stop Irish celebrating we were quite ready to get on with our own lives the best we could.”

Hearing different stories of our loved one (whether they are happy stories, sad or a mixture of both) is not just a healing experience for the immediate family… it can also be a very theraputic, healing exercise for the friends and family who are telling the story. Even writing out a memory in a loved one’s guest book or on their f1Connect Social Memorial Page can help jumpstart the healing process, so as a funeral professional, it’s important to make these valuable products available for your families when they need it most.

To learn more about how your families can start sharing memories and stories about their loved one right on your funeral home website, click here to learn more about f1Connect’s memorial pages.

What is YOUR favorite part of an Irish funeral or celebration? Are there any Irish traditions that you would like to include in your own funeral services? Let us know in the comments below!

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