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Irish Communion Dresses Have Unique Attributes

First communion is a very important event in the life of Catholics around the world.  At this time, people receive the Sacraments of the Eucharist for the first time which involve the partaking of the bread and wine that symbolizes the body and blood of Christ.  For most people, first communion happens at around seven or eight years of age, as it is at this age that they are judged to have reached the age of reason.  First communion is an event that children have to prepare for and this preparation also includes the first confession which is done about a week before.  Although it is not required, many girls wear beautiful fancy white dresses for their first communion, accompanied by veils and headdresses, gloves, shoes and other paraphernalia.  While every country has its traditions, Irish communion dresses have some very unique attributes.


It is thought that the tradition of dressing little girls in white dresses dates back to the late 19th century and the doctrine of the Immaculate Concep­tion of Mary in France, with white signifying the virginity of our Blessed Lady. The custom however may be even older than this.  The dress itself is said to signify the robes worn by Christ at the last supper, and the veil signifies the tablecloth.  In Ireland, communion dresses usually include other symbols, such as the claddagh, the trinity knot and the shamrock and these are incorporated into the design of the Irish communion dresses, veils, headdresses or tiaras, as well as often the socks and other communion gifts.


All of the Irish embellishments have an important significance.  The claddagh features two hands clasping a heart which usually have a crown above them.  The hands are said to represent the quality of friendship, the heart the quality of love, and the crown represents loyalty.  The trinity knot, also known as the Celtic knot has three shapes intertwined which represent the Trinity which is the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  The shamrock, which is often a symbol of luck for lay people, also represents the Holy Trinity.  Oftentimes these symbols are found on the veils as well as Irish communion dresses.  They are usually either done with embroidery, appliqué, or with elaborate beadwork.


First communion is a very celebrated event for most families.  Everyone gets dressed up and there is usually a large gathering of extended family and friends.  After the communion ceremony there is usually a shared meal and usually also a session with a professional photographer.  Wearing their Irish communion dresses, a picture is usually taken of the first communion child and the family.  These photographs become family heirlooms and serve as reminders of the one of the holiest and most important occasions in Catholic life.


In many families, communion dresses are also kept as heirlooms and they are passed down through the generations.  Often the dresses are handmade with loving care.  For people who are starting a family tradition, Irish communion dresses are available for purchase through some of the better department stores as well as through online merchants on the internet.  Keeping with tradition, many of the Irish symbols are incorporated into the design of these dresses and many of them are still done by handmade.  The workmanship is usually of extremely good quality.


This article was published on Tuesday 24 November, 2009.

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