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CULTURE

An important part of Dublin culture, particularly in pubs, with a group of people and with drink taken, is the art of slagging. This involves targeting someone's weak points and wittily criticising them. The person is usually present in the company and has the opportunity to defend him/herself by slagging someone else. It is always good-natured and never cruel or heartless. The verb (or noun, referring to the 'slagger') slag has no connection with the (U.K.) slag, which refers to a lady of ill-repute (= Dub 2-syllable whore = "who-er").

The 'Wake' - when a friend or relative dies, it is normally a great loss not just to the immediate family but to the wider circle of friends we build up during our lifetime. Undertakers in Ireland are usually very efficient and courteous; the actual funeral can sometimes take place about three or four days after death, providing there is no post-mortem. These days the deceased is usually held by the undertakers until the removal, although many still prefer to have their loved one lie in their house. The latter usually involves a room being dedicated to that purpose, with some candles lit and a statue of the Blessed Virgin or Christ. On the evening of the removal, the coffin is either taken by hearse or carried on the shoulders of relatives or friends to the church. If it is a catholic removal, then mourners wait outside for the coffin to arrive - the protestant tradition allows mourners to await in the church. After the service, usually a simple devotion in all Christian traditions, the coffin rests in the church.

The funeral takes place the following morning and following the ceremony, the body is removed to a cemetary or crematorium (there is only one in Ireland at present in Dublin's northside suburb Glasnevin). In the days before gridlock, the hearse would be followed by mourners on foot but it's a rare sight nowadays and people usually follow in cars. Old customs die hard and two are sometimes in evidence even in modern Dublin - firstly the pausing of the funeral cortege outside the deceased's home or sometimes place of work, and secondly, many people still make the Sign of the Cross or bow their heads in respect to the dead as the hearse passes. The real business of the day begins after the cemetary, when all and sundry will repair to the nearest pub and generally spend the rest of the day there [in the country, wakes tend to last all night too]. The idea behind it is very civilised - to help the family through their difficult day by drink and distraction. The deceased is fondly remembered throughout the day, toasted many times, and not a bad word is said against him or her.

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Irish culture: The Wake (funeral customs)

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