Working at a furniture repair and restoration shop brings in the wildest of requests. We get anything from requests for fixing concrete monkey statues, to polishing silver julep cups, to stripping baby dolls carriages. Every now and then people will inquire about pieces that they have, that I am unfamiliar with. What I’m about to discuss is definitely something I had never heard of before.
When this customer called and asked if we could level and structurally strengthen her wake table, my first question was, “what is a wake table?” I never in my wildest dreams would have imagined that it would be what she was about to say. She told me that wake tables are tables that were used back in the day, particularly in Irish Catholic communities, for laying out the deceased at wakes. Much like we have open casket viewings, or wakes, in today’s time, this was how they laid out their loved ones many, many years ago. Wake tables are very long tables (the one in our shop is about seven and a half feet long) with drop leaves that unfold to make it a long oval table. I did a little research of my own and discovered that the deceased would either be laid directly on the table, or their casket would be laid on the table.
Oftentimes, there would be food and desserts displayed on the table around the casket and/or body for family and friends to feast upon while they reflected on their loved one and celebrated their life. Seems a bit…strange, huh? However, the Irish Catholic beliefs were that the deceased body had to be watched and monitored at all times, so that evil spirits did not remove it. Even though it is very likely that these tables are no longer used for this tradition in the modern world, they have many uses that still make them a functional piece to have in your home. Our customer uses hers as a sofa table, which seems to be the perfect use for one of these tables, as they are long and skinny when the leaves are down. Others use them as a traditional dining table, because their long oval shape makes for a great space to seat multiple guests. I encourage you to do some research on cool antiques you have in your home. You never know what you might learn!