By Ann Marie Foley - 27 June, 2019
The amount that families spend on Holy Communion Day has reached a new high of €929, according to the latest Ulster Bank survey.
This is an 8 per cent increase on the previous year, which saw an average spend of €860. According to Ulster Bank, which commissions the survey every year, this is the highest spend since 2011.
“I think we have got to accept that First Holy Communion is a very big occasion for Irish families. It is ingrained in our culture,” Msgr John Byrne VG PP Portlaoise Parish told CatholicIreland.net. “We would like to think it is a celebration because it is a special occasion that the child is receiving first Holy Communion, receiving the Lord for the first time in Holy Communion, but I do realise that there is a bit of a gap between what we would like and what is the reality on the ground.”
Some 90 per cent of parents funded the special day with savings. However, 5 per cent took out loans. Fewer parents reported that they felt under pressure to spend. Out of 175 parents surveyed, 41 per cent said there is pressure to spend as much money on the day as other parents do, whereas more than half of parents thought so last year.
“I am always sorry for families that feel they need to borrow money or who are under financial pressure in order to celebrate because that is totally unnecessary,” said Msgr Byrne. He said that families can avail of pre-used communion dresses and outfits and parishes also help. “We would always appeal to parents not to get into that trap [of borrowing].”
Party food and drink formed one of the highest costs at an average of €357, which was a 2 per cent increase since last year. The largest increase in spending was on clothes for the children, which jumped 35 per cent from €162 to €218. Other family members also spent 27 per cent more on outfits, which averaged €195 compared with €153 last year.
The survey revealed that children received an average of €617 for their First Communion in 2019 compared with €558 last year. Almost a quarter of them receiving €800 or more.
Msgr Byrne commented that with 340 children making First Holy Communion in his parish, that comes to a total of over €200,000. He encourages families to agree together a modest sum that each relative gives to the child and likewise that parents who are preparing cards for classmates of their child agree a suitable sum. Above all he hopes that the true message that they are receiving the sacrament will get through.
“We would always wish to simplify it, and wish that we could have a more spiritual context to it. I think we often come across sounding like we want to spoil the party altogether, but that is not the case. There is a lot of good in the fact that First Holy Communion is still special and important, and family and friends come together, and I would hope to join in that celebration and try to focus on and highlight the real purpose of it.”
The survey was carried out for Ulster Bank for its MoneySense schools programme, which encourages young people to start saving.