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The First Holy Communion is an important event in the life of a Catholic child. It's the common name for the first time a child receives the sacrament of the Eucharist, a tradition in the Catholic Church in which parish members are given consecrated bread and wine that is believed to become the body and blood of Jesus Christ. Children usually receive their First Holy Communion around the age of 7, and the event is a special occasion that's usually celebrated with a gathering and gifts after the service. Wearing proper attire to the event shows respect for the parish, the sacrament and the church itself.
Young girls who are receiving their first Holy Communion should wear a white dress. They are asked to dress in white to symbolize purity, so modesty is key. The white communion dress should fall below the knee or at calf length. This dress can be as simple or as ornate as the child, church, family and community prefer. It's important that this spiritual event does not become a consumerist one, but some feel that dressing up shows their reverence for the occasion.
A child may wear a white veil to accompany the dress. It can be topped with another hair accessory such as a small tiara, depending on the preferences of your parish. Alternately, a white headband, a white barrette, a white ribbon or a white floral crown are allowed in some parishes. Girls may wear white hose, knee socks, stockings, and white dress shoes.
What Not To Do
Although some dressmakers create and advertise them as attire for the occasion, most parishes frown upon sleeveless dresses for Holy Communion. Nor should young girls wear makeup for this important rite of passage. Gloves are permitted at some churches, but they are frowned upon in others, so check with your parish before adding gloves to your child's communion outfit.
The parents and family members of a child attending her First Holy Communion should wear clothes that they would typically wear to a Sunday Mass. They are not obligated to wear white or any specific color. Modest dress is important to show their respect for the church. Avoid strapless dresses, short skirts or dresses, and other types of revealing clothes.
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- New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia: Communion of Children
- The Vatican: A Letter from the Vatican: First Penance, First Communion
- EWTN: The Decree on First Communion
- Catholic News Agency: The Pope Urges Careful Preparation for First Communion
- Emily Post's Etiquette; Peggy Post
- The Vatican Insider: Salesian Rules of Etiquette for Communions and Confirmations
Eric Herboso is a nonprofit social media expert with articles appearing in national print magazines and throughout the blogosphere since 2003. He regularly gives talks and seminars at national nonprofit conventions, helping charities optimize their effectiveness through social media. He is currently working on a graduate degree in applied ethics from Stanford.
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