Saturday morning I went in to Midleton with Darina Allen who started the cooking school at Ballymaloe (more on the market and the school later). Traffic was unusually heavy owing to the fact that hundreds of little kids were receiving their First Communion. Up and down the street you saw excited kids pulling their mums and dads towards the Catholic Church of the Most Holy Rosary.
As you might expect, First Communion is a big deal for Irish Catholics, particularly in smaller towns like Midleton. It generally takes place in second grade when the kids are around seven or eight (it used to be that First Communion wasn’t given until youths reached the state of adolescence, usually around 11 or 12, but Pope Pius X lowered it to “the age of reason,” reckoned to be about seven, in 1910).
Now the boys all look sharp enough but it’s the girls who really receive the princess treatment. A story I read in the Irish Times last weekend said the average amount spent dressing a girl for First Communion in Ireland is about 400 euros (or about $520). The story said that these days “the full rig might include white shoes and tights, petticoats, an embroidered dress, cloak, veil, a tiara, handbag and an umbrella.”
I took the photo above of the little girl and her dad outside the church from our car as we slowly drove by. You might not be able to see the details, but if you could blow it up as I have, you’d notice the silk slippers with rhinestone stars, a gorgeous embroidered dress with multiple folds, white silk gloves, pearl bracelet and earrings, white cardigan and a delicate scarf, all topped with a garland of white flowers in her hair. An outfit and a day she’ll never forget (nor, no doubt, will her dad).
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