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Tips for a Stress Free Communion with Pat Rees

Tuesday, 3 April 2007


Our parenting expert Pat Rees is here to tell us how to avoid the nonsense, withstand the pressure and have a stress-free Holy Communion Day for our little ones. 

Mary Killeen from the National Parents Council will also join us on the phone to tell us the usual parent concerns.
Children dressed in imported silk gowns with finely manicured nails and the latest extravagant updo; parent's donned out in expensive attire; helicopters, horse-drawn carriages and stretched limos pulling up on the scene. Yes, it sounds like a description of the latest episode of 'Sweet Sixteen', the recent programme following the party plans of some of the richest and most spoilt teenage girls of America.

But, it's not. What I'm actually describing is a First Holy Communion in Ireland, a sacrament that is deeply embedded within Irish culture that has spun out of control for some families.

Tis the time for Holy Communions
In a society that has become consumed by materialism it is quite easy for a Communion to become an event where one has to be seen to be keeping up with the Jones'. The Sacrament has become less about the Holy Spirit and more about who has the best dress, the most expensive accessories, the best party and who makes the most money.

Think back to a Holy Communion Years ago, your own Communion. Like most, you probably wore either a hand-me-down dress or if you were lucky, you got a new dress that could be dyed after the big day and worn to every child's party from there on in. You got a bit of money from close family outside the Church, a trip to the Zoo and a nice meal at home cooked by mammy. All in all a pleasant day, and a warm experience of being welcomed into the Church.

Today, we hear of parents (on the extreme end) spending upwards of €4,000 on the day for their little darling. While these people are in the minority, the fact that it happens can put immense pressure on those who can barely afford to dress the child for Church.

So how can it cost €4,000 you might ask?
Ailin Quinlan (journalist with The Irish Examiner) found out.
An example of how a luxury Communion can spin out of control:

Exclusive pure silk designer dress from Milan or Paris - €500 - plus
Commemorative Satin hanger- €25
Handmade headpiece- €65
Hand-dyed silk shoes - €100
Gloves- €12
Tights - €6
Parasol- €25
Satin handbag - €25
Hair with 2 trials -€90
Fake/spray tan - €55
Manicure - €38  
Limousine €300 or Horse-Drawn Carriage : €850
Helicopter Ride- €225
Mother's outfit - €500
Restaurant  -  €1,000
Disbursements to other children - €600 
Bouncy castle - €120
Total (including horse-drawn carriage) : €4,221

(Source: Ailin Quinlan, The Irish Examiner)

So, is this going to far? And does this really happen?Carmel O Shea from The National Parents Council tells us more;

Communion dresses are rarely passed down nowadays. It needs to be the latest designer dresses, silk with hand-sewn beads. For the hair, they're looking for up-styles done by top hairdressers; they want French manicures and fake tans.
Expectations have become much higher and the competition has grown immensely.

It's about outdoing one another with a helicopter ride or something even more expensive and more bling. You hear of families inviting tonnes of people to a marquee in the garden and inviting lots of guests like a wedding. No more trips to the zoo, or cinema for some families. The traditional values are a thing of the past.

The National Parents Council has been contacted by parents disgusted by other class members arriving in limos and handing out bulging envelope to all of the class mates. They're ringing to ask what the National Parents Council can do to discourage this sort of thing. But it's the actions of the parents that will do anything to discourage it.

Who does it have the worst effect on it?
Generally those on a low income. Those on a low income are often in the same classroom as the more middle class families, as a result they will end up having the same high expectations. 
But in this day and age, young middle class families who have to pay the mortgage, car and childcare costs may not have a lot of spare money for events like this - things can be quite tight. A First Communion can be particularly expensive - coming second only to a wedding.

Tips for a stress free communion
. The Outfit - Be realistic. They are going to wear it for one day unless you buy something you can dye and turn into a party dress. Any dress is going to look pretty on them. Do not get caught up in spending €500 on imported silk to compete with the other mother's choices. Dunne's do a great range. Also, keep an eye on the charity shops. Top-to-toe outfits can be had from €30 to €80, depending on the dress and the location of the shop. They are generally in pristine condition. Go online where you can order beautiful dresses at affordable prices. For example: Or auction sites (like ebay). Who understands what a designer dress is, you or your child?
. Accessories. Be creative, the shoes will be worn once. Hand me downs are fine. Explain this to your child. Why not use a tiara that was used for a friend's wedding or a veil that was used for the same.
. Up-style hair-dos on a child can sometimes look ridiculous. You certainly shouldn't encourage a child of that age to use fake tan, let alone have trials before the big day!
. Drive your child to the Church - horse-drawn carriages, stretched limos need we say more about this.
. Be realistic. Don't splash out just because other parent's are doing it.
. Rita O' Reilly from Parentline feels that €5 is perfectly adequate for a gift for an eight year old child. It's ridiculous to shower them with money that they don't know what to do with.
. If parents of everyone else in the class are planning to give a card with €10 to every class member, let them know well in advance that you won't be partaking. It's silly if you think about it. If every parent gives every child €10, it really means each parent is giving their eight year old child €300. What is an eight year old going to do with €300? Why don't you as parent's get together and
. Remember the day is a celebration for your child. Would your child want to spend it in the pub for the day or watching their parent's spend the day drinking in the hotel? No, they'd probably prefer a trip to the zoo or a visit to a fair. Another alternative is for the parents to get together in advance and book a room in a hotel for the class to have a party. Sharing the cost of that would be a lot less than renting a function room for the family.
. If your child is kicking up a fuss about what ever other child in the class is getting, remind them about the Sacrament and what the day is about.
. Enjoy yourself and be proud of your children on the day.

Are you feeling the strains of being a parent and could use some helpful advice?  Maybe they have a toddler that won't be weaned, a child that won't attend playschool or a teenager who won't obey the curfew. If so, can you contact us with your details.

You can email us at
Post your concerns to The Afternoon Show, Montrose House, RTE, Dublin 4.
Or you can call us in the office on 01 2084600.

For more information
PRACTICAL PARENTING - An Irish Survival Guide by Pat Rees is available in book stores nationwide priced at €13.00

National Parent's Council - 01 8874034

Practical Parenting with Pat Rees