The American Wake
For the Irish, emigration was like death. The American wake was a custom that seems to be unique to Ireland. People saw little difference between going to America and going to the grave so unlikely were they to return.
The practice of the American wake was known since the 1830s. The custom of “waking” (watching) the dead had its origins in Irish antiquity. It was most common in the south and west of the country although it had different names. To the Irish speakers of Mayo it was known as “the feast of departure”. The manuscript notebook of Michael Corduff from Mayo describes the atmosphere of doom and dejection and the heavy sighs from the women as the men smoked their pipes to relieve “the tadium (tedium) and depression of the rather heartsore occasion”