First Communion Day is a very big event in a Catholic child's life. In many ways it's like a debutante party or a wedding. Little girls wear white dresses and veils, little boys white suits. Families pack the church. And afterwards there are parties and presents. Perfect strangers on the street seeing your First Communion finery will give you money because on that day you are a little angel.
It's a good time.
When I made my First Communion in April 1967, poufy dresses held out by starchy crinolines and veils anchored by rhinestone tiaras were the ultimate in feminine First Communion chic. Oh, how I wanted a get-up like that. But my mother commissioned Aunt Frances to sew a simple tasteful white cotton pique chemise and a veil attached to a headband with white silk flowers. BOOOOOOORING!
Aunt Frances turned out exquisite christening gowns, Mardi Gras costumes and bridal attire. However, she free-formed accessories without a pattern. So my First Communion veil, rather than fluttering around my shoulders, enveloped me whole sort of like a white sheer net burka. In most of my first Communion pictures, it looks like the veil is eating me alive. If the wind had been right that day, it probably would have billowed like a sail, and I could have drifted up and away like Sister Betrille in "The Flying Nun."
The day itself is a blur of Latin, incense, ringing bells and giggling and whispering with my seatmate (which got me in trouble with Sister de Fatima). My cousin Karen made her First Communion on that day, too. Her slightly yellowed veil, worn by two older sisters before her, was just the right size.
After the ceremony, we posed for family pictures, then went to the hospital to visit our Grandpa who was sick and had missed the ceremony. All the nurses and patients exclaimed over us and gave us pieces of candy and money.
Years later, a small child visiting our house came across my First Communion photos. All sweet baby seriousness, he said he didn't know I used to be an angel. Then he asked to borrow my wings so he could fly up to Heaven to visit his grandpa.
I wish I had those wings myself. There are lots of people I'd love to visit there.
Top Photo: First Communion Day, Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Biloxi, Miss., April 1967. The church is now a cathedral for the Diocese of Biloxi.
Photo Above: As you might gather from the pout, my sister Kim was upset that after weeks of practicing with a bathroom towel on her head, she was not going to be allowed to make her First Communion. As you will note from my somewhat smug smirk, I'm not at all upset that I am the center of attention.
Traditionally, First Communions are followed by parties. These melt-in-your-mouth meringues, my sister's speciality, look like little clouds -- the perfect Communion Day treat for little angels. Make these on a clear bright day or they won't come out right.
2 egg whites at room temperature
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
3/4 cup of sugar
1, 6-ounce package of semi-sweet chocolate chip bits
1/4 cup pecans, chopped
1 teaspoon vanilla
Beat egg whites, salt, cream of tartar and vanilla until soft peaks form. Add sugar gradually, and beat until stiff. Fold in chocolate bits and add pecans. Cover a cookie sheet with heavy brown paper; do not grease. Drop from a teaspoon into small mounds onto the paper-covered cookie sheet. Bake at 300 degrees for about 25 minutes. Reduce the heat to 250 degrees if they brown too fast. When done, these will be crispy and dry and creamy white.