Wake (ceremony)
A wake is a ceremony
A ceremony is an event of ritual significance, performed on a special occasion. The word may be of Etruscan origin.-Ceremonial occasions:A ceremony may mark a rite of passage in a human life, marking the significance of, for example:* birth...

 associated with death. Traditionally, a wake takes place in the house of the deceased, with the body present; however, modern wakes are often performed at a funeral home
Funeral home
A funeral home, funeral parlor or mortuary, is a business that provides burial and funeral services for the deceased and their families. These services may include aprepared wake and funeral, and the provision of a chapel for the funeral....

. In the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 and Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

 it is synonymous with a viewing. It is often a social rite which highlights the idea that the loss is one of a social group and affects that group as a whole.

The English word "wake" originated from the ancient Indo-European root "wog" or "weg," meaning "to be active." This evolved into several meanings, including "growth" ("vegetable"), "to become or stay alert," and "watching or guarding." The third also evolved into the word "watch," and it is in this sense that people have a "wake" for someone who recently died. While the modern usage of the verb "wake" is "become or stay alert" meaning, a "wake" for the dead harks back to the antiquated "watch" or "guard" sense. This is contrary to the urban legend that people at a wake are waiting in case the deceased should "wake up."

In 1752 Richard Pococke
Richard Pococke
Richard Pococke was an English prelate and anthropologist. He was Protestant Bishop of Ossory and Meath , both dioceses of the Church of Ireland...

 observed a wake in County Down
County Down
-Cities:*Belfast *Newry -Large towns:*Dundonald*Newtownards*Bangor-Medium towns:...

: "I saw a number of women in an adjacent cabin, and my curiosity led me to go in, it was a wake over the body of an old man, who was stretched on the floor and covered with a sheet. About 3 feet above the corpse was a board covered with a white cloth, on which they place candles; and the women sit round the corpse, they are entertained with a spirit of Barley, call'd Whiskey, with Tabacco and sometimes with bread, cake, &c, and frequently drink to excess with such instances of mortality before their eyes, and this they look on as an act of Devotion."

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