Amanda Cassidy on the unholy fuss that comes with accepting the Eucharist.
First things first, Communion is an important religious ceremony for Catholics when a child reaches the age of about 8 years old. It is about celebrating the moment they accept the bread and wine (known as the Eucharist) This is performed in a church ceremony and the bread and wine are body and blood of Christ. Not many children participating will be offered the wine, of course.
The significance is to remind us of the suffering of Jesus and the love he showed. In order to be able to share the blood and body of Jesus, one must be born again. In other words, if you want to accept your Communion, you must first go through self-examination and confession. The white dresses and fancy suits the children wear symbolise purity (similar to the white dress worn at Baptism).
Now, I’m not sure where the parasols or inflatables come into this, but suffice to say that these days, this traditional rite of passage for many Irish children has evolved into an extravaganza that involves spending hundreds on dresses, limos, ice sculptures and fake tan.
I know, I know, not everyone indulges in what has become in many households the mini-wedding event of the year, but we all know someone who will take things that bit too far.
Related: Should we really give our children Communion money?
The religious side of things (which some will argue is the only side of things in a First Holy Communion) involves the hymns, the prayers and the excitement of turning up at the church in your finery with your loved ones to celebrate this significant religious milestone.
Photos will be taken, teachers and priests will make small talk as you concentrate on not breathing too hard in your blush two-piece ensemble. In the church, the grownups (ok, the mums) will be painstakingly trying not to swivel too obviously around to check out the other getups. The girls and boys themselves will be a little less subtle.
There will be one poor soul laden with so many white accessories she can hardly fit into the pew; bulky skirts, fur, tiara, flower crowns, veils, satin gloves, prayer books, rosary beads, white parasols, capes and curls.
It is all very serious until the children skip out of church giddily to the parish centre for a spread of white, well, everything – white marshmallows, white bread sandwiches…you get the idea. If they are lucky, there will be a magician or children’s entertainer while you elbow your way through a sea of fancily-clad families to down two coffees in one gulp. It is going to be a long day.
Let’s get the photos while they are clean, we all nod to one another. And that’s one of the sweetest moments right there -one that makes you stop in your 6-inch heels – the innocent looking dolls and their oversized dresses with their arms around one another, grinning happily, proud as punch. You feel a tear well up because you know this is one of those moments that you never want to forget – a moment that will sit framed on the sideboard at home for years to come. A moment that is innocence incarnate, fleeting and perfect and then, gone.
You wedge your child back into the car and here’s where things separate a little – either you are heading home to host a horde of family and friends with a bouncy castle for good measure or you are going out for a ‘nice lunch’ in a ‘nice restaurant’.
Both options involve a lot of eating, crying, counting cash out on the table a la Silas Marner and tomato sauce on pretty clothes.
You probably won’t care – you have escaped leggings and runners for the day so you are going to Make The Most of It. There will be champagne and probably a shaving of truffle or two. An entire salmon may be devoured and you’ll even open a button or two to allow for dessert. Everyone is in good spirits – it’s what we like to call a Great Day Out.
There will always be those who rent a wedding band or a silver marquee or those who opt for ice-sculptures. Who are we to take that away from them? Communions, like most family events, should be memorable and beautiful and involve just enough fuss over the religious aspect.
Each to their own. I just can’t get on board with those ice-sculptures.
*This article was amended on May 22 2023