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Opinion: First Holy Communion etiquette for sensible spenders

Let me warn you now about those who may try to get you spending against your will – and help you to defend yourself.

Avril O'Reilly

AS THE COMMUNION season rages on there is still time to absorb etiquette to help you to survive. ‘Why do we need a lesson at this late stage?’ you might ask.

Etiquette serves various purposes. Knowledge of etiquette can help you put people at their ease. It can stop you making an eejit of yourself. It can also protect you from other people who might make an eejit of you.

Coming into the final stretch of the Communion season, sensible spenders may suddenly find themselves coming under attack. Let me warn you now about those who may try to get you spending against your will.

Last minute Communion predators:

  • The ‘Sneak-retive’ Spenders
  • The ‘Ah, Go Ons’
  • The Downright Rude

The Sneak-retive Spenders

The First Holy Communion Peloton is about to split. There may be casualties.
The peloton is a cycling term for the huddle of speeding cyclists that you see in the Tour de France and Giro d’Italia. Cyclists know that if they get into a pack they will achieve greater speeds than they ever would on their own. But make no mistake – each cyclist wants that Yellow Jersey or Maglia Rosa and when the time comes they will abandon their group and make a frantic break for the finish line. They want to win.

With First Holy Communions, the pelaton is made up of Sensible Spenders as well as ‘Sneak-retive Spenders’. Sneak-retive Spenders pretend that they disapprove of excessive outlay. They make statements like “Spending that much is ridiculous,” or “Those Aldi dresses are perfectly nice”. Other members will reply with lines like “I agree,” and “Everyone has to tighten their belts”.

The pretence of cooperation allows Sneak-retive Spenders to find out what the competition is up to. Their idea of winning is being The Joneses that people want to keep up with. At the last minute they mention in passing the caterers, entertainers, and Mother Of The Communicant outfits.

As you watch the sudden change of atmosphere you may panic. You may find yourself wailing “But I thought we all agreed to go easy, that the Tiger excesses were behind us, that overspending was part of our embarrassing past, didn’t we?!” A version of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) may grip you and before you know it you’re melting your credit card.

How to deal with it

Hold firm. You are not missing anything. If you have a competitive streak it is tempting to throw some money at the situation. But bear in mind that the Communion day is not a competition. It is about welcoming your child into the Catholic Church. Your job is to provide a warm experience for your son or daughter. If you want to show off buy a new Gazebo/car/conservatory, leave the kid’s day out of it.

The “Ah, Go On”s

These spendaholics are more overt in their strategy. Rather like borderline alcoholics looking for drinking buddies these guys need company to validate their excessive behaviour.

They will have spent the past few months encouraging you to lash out with comments like “They are only children once.” “Life is too short.” Now with their spending escalating they need to up the ante. If they have not by now persuaded you to join them in indebtedness they may accuse you of being “scabby.”

How to deal with it

No-one should be telling you how to spend your money but if you never join in the fun you may lose friends, you might think. The alcohol analogy is helpful here. The trick is to avoid implicitly criticising your big spending pals. I know a newspaper editor who would hold the same pint of Guinness all night thus giving the impression of joining in while saving himself the hangover. Virgin cocktails also allow abstemious types to appear sociable.

With Communion spendaholics, never point out that you are not shopping because you “can’t afford it.” They can’t afford it either and you’ll sound smug if you are ostentatiously keeping your credit card bill lower than theirs. The old rules hold. Don’t ever say how much anything cost.

The Downright Rude

We have all heard of children who open envelopes and complain about the contents.

How to deal with it

Laugh it off. Just remember that these moments of appalling child behaviour often haunt people into their adult lives. I still blush at the memory of turning a thank you letter into a request for outfits for my Sindy doll. I got caught out when I needed spelling help. Bratty children should not take gifts for granted.

Relax

Spending a lot is fine. Spending a little is fine. Modern Ireland is a place where we have freedom of choice.

This article isn’t about avoiding debt. It is about having the courage of your convictions. Spend if you want to. Don’t if you don’t. But don’t be bullied, panicked or blackmailed into landing yourself with a nuts-in-a-vice credit card debt or a life crushing overdraft. Secular or Christian, no-one needs that.

Avril O’Reilly is a children’s book writer and author of Kathleen And The Communion Copter.

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Avril O'Reilly

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