The New Student's Reference Work/Wake
Wake, from the Anglo-Saxon word meaning to watch, is a religious festival, once universal in England. The early churches were dedicated to a particular saint, and the festival was kept on the birthday of that saint. The day at the time was reckoned from sunset to sunset, so that the first part of the festival was the night-watch; hence the name. These festivals degenerated into fairs, because of the peddlers etc., who were attracted by the crowd, and became scenes of riot. They were forbidden to be held in the country churchyards by Edward I, and Henry VI abolished all selling at wakes, except of food, while Henry VIII made the first Sunday in October the day of the feast. The wake is still observed in some country parishes in England. The Irish wake is the custom of watching all night around the dead.