I received my First Holy Communion at the age of eight. My grandparents and tradition decreed that eight was the appropriate age.As is the tradition the ceremony was held at my Moms place in Kerala. A cousin brother Tommy also received his First Holy Communion with me. We both would go for the Catechism classes at the Church where I was baptized. The place where I come from in Kerala is a completely Catholic area. The entire community therefore knew about our First Holy Communion. Whether we were playing outside or generally running around the fields people passing by would stop to ask us if we had by learnt the prayers. Then came the twist in the tale. People would go and tell Tommy that I had learnt all the prayers and vice versa. Both of us would then all worked up at the competition and anxiously study our prayers and Catechism. We both passed our test with flying colors largely due to the rivalry created by the folks in the village :)
Then came the day of Confession. All my cousin brothers and sisters helped me compile a list of sins, because at age eight I did not even know what sin was. I had a pitiful and handful number of sins to my credit and all of them were committed against my second brother like pulling his hair, writing in his class notebook and letting out air from his bicycle. However with a lot of help from everybody around I had a decent list of sins to my credit to Confess. The Confession went off well watched by anxious parents, Uncles and Aunts. My Uncles teased me when it was over saying that it was the longest confession in the history of the Church!!!
Next day, which was a Sunday, the Church was booked for the First Holy Communion. It was a special Mass. The church was packed with relatives from both sides, that is Tommy’s and mine. An aunt in the US had sent a lovely lace frock for my First Holy Communion complete with lace gloves and veil. Tommy’s Uncle from Dubai had sent him a Double breasted White Suit!!!! The result was very uncomfortable. In the Kerala heat, lacy dresses and double-breasted suits are a disaster. I was very uncomfortable with the paraphernalia that I was wearing and I can only imagine the acute discomfort of Tommy in the suit. I don’t remember much of the ceremony because the lace kept itching and the glove made my hands sweat.
Somehow the ceremony got over and after the mandatory photographs with all and sundry the entire entourage moved to my Moms Tharavadu for the feasting. It is a tradition in my part of Kerala (more of a chauvinism) that at least four kinds of meats should be served at an important occasion like this. So there was Beef, Chicken, Duck, Fish and Mutton. My Dad must have been collecting booze from the day I was born, for it was flowing like water and even the priest got drunk! As soon as I reached home, my Mom’s sister got me out of the lace costume much to my relief and made me wear normal clothes. It was like a burden lifted off my shoulders literally because the dress was heavy. After that it was fun playing with my cousins and generally being the center of attraction. Today Tommy flies for an US airline as a Pilot and whenever we meet or email we still talk about the rivalry that was created between us all those years ago.
I don’t know why the people are in such a tearing hurry to make their kids go through First Holy Communion at such a young age. Recently I was helping my cousin sisters's daughter prepare for her First Holy Communion ( as I am her Godmother) and I went through the whole routine again, this time understanding it better. I know for a fact that my little niece doesn’t even know what’s happening like me all those years ago.
All in all it was a nice experience and I got some 20,000 Rosaries and Bibles as presents :))