First communion traditions around the world

Written by jennifer reynolds
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First communion traditions around the world
Most First Communion traditions involve elaborate dress (Digital Vision/Photodisc/Getty Images)

For Catholics around the world, the First Communion is one of the most important events in a child's life. It signifies their entrance into sacramental life within the Church. It is the second step, after baptism, into becoming a full member of the Catholic church. Traditions for celebrating First Communion vary around the world according to local customs and cultures.

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First Confession

In most places around the world, children will give a priest their first confessions on the Sunday before their first communion. In the eyes of the Catholic Church, only those absolved of sin can receive Communion. First Communion ceremonies usually take place around Easter and are shared by all children in the Church who are ready to receive their First Communion.

Dress

In North America and much of Europe, First Communion outfits generally consist of white or pale-coloured suits for boys and white dresses for girls. Girls may also wear veils and gloves, also white, to signify purity. Some families may pass Communion dresses down from generation to generation while others prefer to buy them new: many bridal and formalwear shops also carry First Communion dresses. In Latin America, boys sometimes wear military-style uniforms for their First Communion, while boys in Scotland wear traditional kilts, and children in Switzerland, both boys and girls, wear long white robes with heavy wooden crosses around their necks.

Celebration

The First Communion of a child is celebrated around the world with a family party after the ceremony. This party may be at home with a meal served to family and friends or at a restaurant with family and other church members. Traditions for the family celebration vary from family to family and among communities more than they do among different cultures.

Education and Timing

Roman Catholics generally take First Communion at the age of 7 or 8. The age is not a steadfast requirement; the Church simply requires the child to be of the age of reason and to have undergone at least two years of religious education and Catechism classes. Children enrolled in Catholic schools will receive this education at school, while children in other schools will attend Sunday school or private Catechism lessons. The one exception is members of Eastern Catholic Churches, which practices Infant Communion, in which babies receive their First Communion after they have been baptised.

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