The First Communion, or First Holy Communion, is a Catholic Church ceremony. It is the colloquial name for a person's first reception of the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. Catholics believe this event to be very important, as the Eucharist is one of the central focuses of the Catholic Church. First Communion is not practiced in most Eastern Catholic Churches, which practices Infant Communion. First Communion is also celebrated by some Anglicans and some Protestantw denominations, particularly Lutheransw. Celebration of this ceremony is typically less elaborate in many Protestant churches. Roman Catholics and some Protestant denominations, including Lutherans, believe Christ is truly present in the Eucharist, (Transubstantiation) although they nuance this concept differently. Other denominations have varying understandings, ranging from the Eucharist being a "symbolic" meal to a meal of "remembering" Christ's last supper. First Communion in Roman Catholic churches typically takes place at age seven or eight, depending on the country. Roman Catholic adults who have not yet received their First Communion may go through a separate program called the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults or RCIA to receive this sacrament.
First Communion is traditionally an important festive occasion for Roman Catholic families. Also, Holy Communion is the second sacrament of the seven. This is traditionally practiced by many Roman Catholic Italians, Latino, Scottish, and Irish (etc.) families.
Traditions surrounding First Communion usually include large family gatherings and parties to celebrate the event and special clothing is usually worn. The clothing is often white to symbolize purity. Girls often wear fancy dresses and a veil attached to a wreath of flowers or hair ornament. In other communities girls commonly wear dresses passed down to them from sisters or mothers, or even simply their school uniforms plus the veil and/or wreath.
In many Latin Americaw countries, boys wear military-style dress uniforms with gold braidw aiguilettesw. In Switzerlandw and Luxembourgw, both boys and girls wear plain white robes with brown wooden crosses around their necks.
Many families have formal professional photographs taken in addition to candid snapshotsw in order to commemorate the event. Some churches arrange for a professional photographer after the ceremony.
The social mission of First Communion is a rite of passage leading to Confirmation, which is culturally similar to that of the Bar Mitzvah in the religion of Judaism. During the era of Communistw dominant societies initiation into the Pioneerw movementw in communist countries that had large Catholic populations was an overt attempt to supplant the Catholic ritual. In all cases, a child at the critical age of around seven to ten is initiated as a member of a group within which the individuals share certain values and culture.
Counterparts in other Religions
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- Quam singulari
- A Letter from the Vatican: First Penance, First Communion
- CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: Communion of Children