Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The Death Of The Irish Wake

Perhaps we could hold a wake...For the death of the Irish wake.

The EU has issued a directive that could put an end to the age old tradition of the week-long event, in which a body is typically bathed and dressed in a white garment. The body is then laid out for about a week, during which it is not to be left alone. While the family watch the body, games are played, food and drink consumed, music played and a life well lived is celebrated. At the end of the week, women begin to "keen", and a rosary is placed in the corpse's hands, so that everyone present may kneel and pray. The body is then laid to rest.

This tradition is centuries old; as evidenced by the song Finnegan's Wake, in which Finnigan wakes up in the middle of his own wake. (Not to be confused with the book of the same name.)

The EU directive, issued by Stavros Dimas, EU environmental director, would require embalmers to preserve the body under a new 'biocides' directive. The directive goes into effect in September, and would prohibit the use of formaldehyde and other ingredients capable of destroying living organisms.

The Irish object, naturally. The Irish Association of Funeral Directors has written to EU and Irish politicians, saying that the ban would alter the tradition of the wake.

The association said: "Viewing the deceased is part of Irish culture and it is recognized that such practice is an important part of bringing closure to bereavement, and ample evidence from psychologists exists to back this up."

The Fianna Fail MEP for Ireland South has also challenged it. Brian Crowley said:"From my reading of the regulation the embalmers may argue a requirement of derogation on the grounds of protection of cultural heritage."

It will be interesting to see if the EU will respect the culture of the Irish. After all, if a Muslim country complained that their culture were being subverted, you know that the EU would capitulate.

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