The sun has just come out and there’s finally a good ole’ stretch in the evenings. The first days of summer have begun which means only one thing: It’s Communion season.
COVID 19 prohibited many wee ones from participating in the holy sacrament over the last two years. That makes this year’s event particularly exciting as double the amount of primary school kids will be heading to the church to take the Eucharist for the first time. At this stage, there are kids in their late teens getting geared up in white dresses and suits for the big day.
Times have changed since the iconic communions and confirmations of yore. These days kids probably spend their communion money on a new phone or a PS5, rather than heading straight to the local newsagents for a massive bag of pick and mix. However, we hope that there are some sacred traditions that remain the same. For the season that’s in it, let’s look back at the nostalgic (yet holy) memories that those who went to catholic school in Ireland, cherish fondly.
As adults, the concept of confession seems a little bit strange. If you didn’t grow up Catholic, the idea of an eight-year-old traipsing up the aisle to avail free therapy from their local parish priest might seem bizarre. The night before your first confession you’d sit there with your mammy in the kitchen, trying to come up with appropriate sins to confess. Basic atrocities such as; ‘I fought with my brother’ or ‘I didn’t clean my room’ or, if you were very bold, ‘I stole a fiver from the trocaire box’. The sins deemed appropriate for first confession were memorised for the main event. Is it just us, or did everyone else have the exact same sins to confess? The priest was probably bored out of his tree by the time the last kid said ‘bless me father for I have sinned’.
Your Communion Dress
It’s mad to think that this was actually a thing. Whether you were a little fella stuffed into a suit you had outgrown because your mother purchased it in a sale last year, or the third sister to wear a puffed-sleeved gown that used to be white, your communion outfit was seen as one of the most important ensembles you would ever wear. From itchy vails to tiny bowties, lace gloves to shoes with an inappropriately high heel, the words ‘dressed up to the nines’ were always an understatement.
The Get Ups
And it wasn’t just your outfit. Your aunties, granny, cousins etc. also arrived to the church
decked out in more than their more-than-Sunday best. In some countries, they have weddings. In Ireland we start ‘em young. Think the Met Gala if it were held in St Mel’s parish, Co. Longford.
You probably don’t remember the exact moment you received your first holy Communion. That’s not because the ceremony was unimportant. It is just difficult to differentiate the real event from the several hundred ‘practice Communions’ you participated in over the course of the year. The only real difference was that you could actually eat the tiny wafer on the day of the official ceremony. That being said, tasting the bread was not always a highlight. We all remember the deep disappointment at the discovery that the Body of Christ was not, in fact, a Cadburys white-chocolate button.
The scale of Irish Communion (and Confirmation) parties never cease to amaze the rest of the world. Family, neighbours and friends would gather for the shindig of the year complete with free drink, a sing-song and even a bouncy castle if you were lucky enough. If you were like most kids, you’d immediately change out of your dress or suit the moment you arrived home from the church. This was to avoid any damage as the outfit would have to be worn by at least 10 cousins before it was in bits enough to put into a halloween dress-up bag or brought to your local charity shop.
When you think of Communion parties, your own or those of family or friends, a few things come to mind. An allocated area in the ‘good room’ where the elderly relatives sat, summer salads displayed on the ‘good delf’, cakes of all kinds that you were not allowed to eat until all the guests had their fill. If you grew up during the bouncy castle era, you’ll struggle to remember a Communion or Confirmation party where no one went home in a cast. Limbs were broken left, right and centre at those things. It was a risk we were all willing to take.
P.S If anyone has an An Post account that still contains money that was deposited before the millenium, please take a pic and tag us in it. Thank you.