Each spring catholic children prepare to receive their First Communion. It has become a right of passage within the Church, but it is one that is steeped with great tradition that reaches back to the early days of Christianity.
In the early days of the church Christians were brought into the community and began living the teaching of the church for often a year and then celebrating the rites of Christian initiation and this process is still very closely followed by the RCIA in the modern Church. But for children each will receive these same sacraments of initiation thought their young lives.
Baptism was moved from adulthood to infancy because the church felt children would benefit from the graces received though baptism. Communion or Eucharist was switch to the age in which the child could comprehend what the sacrament was about. This is known as the age of consent.
The process of initiation finishes with Confirmation and although the age has been shifted around though the years. The decision is now in the hand of the bishops to set the age for their own dioceses.
The day of First Communion has become a day of celebration for each of the families but the Irish and Italians not only view it as a religious event but also as a cultural event. To each of these ethnic groups the childs First communion day is one of the most important days. Both groups culture and religion form the family and many family traditions are planted in both.
For the Irish Family the selection of the Communion clothing often reflects the Irish heritage. It is not required by many Irish families do select to go with Irish symbolism for their children. Items include the Celtic cross, which symbolically is the unending Love of God, with its familiar unending circle that is around the cross. The Claddagh has become a very recognizable symbol and represents though its simple symbol of love and friendship that is thought to come from an old Irish Fishing village of Claddagh.
The shamrock may be the most appropriate Irish symbol maybe one of the most relevant symbols to tie heritage and religion together. The shamrock has the three leaves and is reminiscent of the Trinity, the most basic core principle of Catholicism after the Resurrection itself. Irish lace is also often wanted for First Communion Bible covers or hankies for girls. This is a way to honor both the tradition of the church as well as the Irish at large.
First communion clothing is often given the same amount of thought one gives to wedding clothing. It includes First Communion Veils, and ornate white dresses that are often formal type tresses with lace and crinoline with the dress material being made from satin.
These traditions are not limited to the Irish and Italians cultures. Parents select the clothing for their child to convey modesty and purity as they are presenting their child to the church and to the Lord as that child stands before the altar.