Parents spending millions on Communion despite recession
Parents of youngsters celebrating their First Holy Communion spend almost €1,000 on the day, making the industry worth €57m annually, according to a new survey.
Nine and 10-year-olds who received the sacrament were earning on average €486 in cash gifts on the day and later spending half of it.
John Monaghan, national vice-president of the Society of St Vincent de Paul (SvP), said parents will spend because they do not want their child to stand out from others.
"Our recommendation is to put a little sanity back into it, we need some sense," he said.
"It was never right. It was never justified. It is taking away from the sacrament and focusing on the show business. There are a lot of families who cannot afford to do this."
A survey of First Communion habits found spending on the day down 17pc, from €1,165 to €967 over the past two years, while the amount of cash youngsters collected was down 18pc, from €574 over the same period.
In the years before the recession it was not unusual for parents to hire limousines and bouncy castles, and shell out on expensive dresses, suits, make-up and spray tans.
The study of 1,000 people at the end of May and start of June by Millward Brown Lansdowne for Ulster Bank found children in Dublin earned the most at €533, while First Communicants in Munster got €519.
Those in Ulster and Connacht were least well-off, getting €369.
Ulster Bank said with almost 60,000 children making their Communion this year, nine and 10-year-olds had €27.9m to spend and saved €13.3m.
Aunts and uncles are most generous, giving about a third of all money received.
SvP staff in the 13 regions the agency works in have been in contact with Catholic bishops raising concerns over the cost of the day.
Mr Monaghan warned that advisers are discovering families in arrears on energy bills because the cash they have is paying back money lenders months after the big day.
The agency urged the Church and schools to consider asking parents to allow children to wear a white robe or smock for the service, as is common on the continent.
Mr Monaghan said: "Families tend to want to make a fuss. But it would be a brave parish priest who would try to introduce rules - many parents would object and say 'you'll not tell me what to do with my child'."
The survey found children's outfits for the day cost about €213, down a third on the previous two years.
Other big spending habits have also been trimmed back, with 25pc less now spent on make-up, fake tan and hair for girls.
Jim Ryan, managing director, private banking and advice at Ulster Bank, said: "It's not surprising to see parents investing significantly in the day.
"Interestingly, it is also the first time that many children receive a large amount of money, so it's encouraging to see that with children saving almost half of what they receive the 'savings culture' is embedded in people's minds from an early age."