Wake (Anglo-Saxon, waican, "to watch"), a holyday festival once universally held in England. In early times the day was considered as beginning and ending at sunset; and on the eve of the holyday worshippers repaired to the churches for worship, while the following day was spent in amusement. Each church, when consecrated, was dedicated to a saint, and on the anniversary of that day the parish wake was kept. In many places there was a second wake on the birthday of the saint, sometimes called Patron or Saint's Day. On these occasions the floor was strewed with rushes and flowers, and the altar and pulpit were decked with boughs and leaves. Crowds resorted to the wakes from neighboring parishes; hawkers or merchants were attracted by the crowds; and ultimately the wakes became mere fairs or markets little under the influence of the Church, and disgraced by scenes of indulgence and riot. The scandal of these scenes became so great that in 1285 Edward I passed a statute forbidding fairs and markets to be held in country churchyards. In 1448 Henry VI ordained that all showing of goods and merchandise except necessary victuals should be discontinued on the great festivals of the Church. In 1536, Henry VIII, by an .act of convocation, ordered the festival of the Saint's Day to be discontinued, and: that of the dedication of the church in all parishes to be the firsts Sunday in October. This gradually fell into desuetude, the Saint's Day being the more popular festival, and it still subsists in the form of a village wake.
Alyke-wake is a watching all night of a dead body by the friends and neighbors of the deceased. In Ireland, upon the death of one in humble circumstances, the body, laid out and covered with a sheet except the face, and surrounded with lighted tapers, is waked by the friends and neighbors. After vociferous lamentations, food and whiskey are indulged in, commonly leading to noisy and even riotous demonstrations. The custom, no doubt, originated in superstitious fear either of passing the night alone with a dead body or of its being interfered with by evil spirits.