“Hi our FHC on this Sunday. Silly me assumed hairdresser open at 9, and thought the two of us cud go up then. I know very stupid to assume anything about communions. Would anyone know a hairdresser who works on Sundays?? We r in S county Dublin?Thax – Shnoggi”
The above conundrum, raised by a south Dublin mother who goes by the rather unusual moniker of “Shnoggi” on www.rollercoaster.ie is just one of the many decisions faced by close to 60,000 mothers this month. May is communion season, after all.
In the true spirit of rigorous economic research, for which this column has become rightly known, this morning I bring you some important economic dilemmas faced by Irish mothers this weekend. The mothers on rollercoaster.ie are not happy. There is so much to organise, so many choices to make and so many essential “must haves”.
During the four weekends of May, there will have been 60,000 odd communions in Ireland. Based on birthrates in the early to mid-2000s, there are 64,000 children of communion age and, give or take a few thousand, the vast majority make their First Holy Communion.
This coming weekend is the big one. The last weekend always trumps the rest. Our local hairdresser told me that she took three bookings in January for May 25.
Whole houses at the moment are up to high doh. Just look around your estate this weekend and you’ll witness a massive national mobilisation as houses and gardens are readied for the occasion.
There are few ways to avoid it.
I told Hector on 2FM as he considered, half-petrified, his coming communion weekend that he should’ve married a Protestant. It’s still, after years of scientific advances, one of the few proven antidotes to communion fever. A few years ago, our little daughter sat glumly opposite her mother at the kitchen table in the middle of May and sobbed “Mum, I want to be a Catholic”.
“Why darling”, responded her Northern Irish mother.
“Because they’re the ones with all the money.”
And she wasn’t wrong.
After all, her friends came gushing into our house having just trousered hundreds of euro from their relations.
This year, according to Ulster Bank, the average Irish kid will “make” €432 and of this, the majority – €325 – will be saved. On average €107 will be spent. A typical family will spend €744 on the whole shebang, from clothes to food, to dresses, slabs of Bavaria and, of course, the obligatory bouncy castle.
When writing ‘The Pope’s Children’ in 2005, I went out around west Dublin with a bouncy castle man on Communion day. He was one of my favourite characters from the boom.
The funniest thing about the day was coming back at dusk trying to get the castles back. By this stage the kids were long gone, glued to the DVD and we faced the prospect of hammered, sun-burned dads and uncles (who had been model boy-scouts when we were putting them up) now full of gargle, flaying around on ‘Desperate Dan’ bouncy castles trying to bribe us with fifties not to take the things until morning!
Communions are big business. Every May €44.6m is spent in the local economy alone just kitting up the gaff and getting ready.
The huge sum of €25.9m will be handed over to the nation’s children, who reveal extraordinary restraint in saving €19.5m of the total. That said, close to €6.5m is spent immediately. This used to be spent exclusively in the local economy but in recent years internet savvy children are spending more and more online, displaying a recurring theme in economics, which is the child’s natural eye for a bargain.
A crucial aspect of communion behaviour is the keeping up with the Jones’s effect.
If your neighbour has a bouncy castle; you need one too, preferably a bigger one. If your neighbour’s daughter has a tiara and parasol, then you’d better get one as well and before you know it, you’re looking for designer communion dresses.
Well don’t worry because in line with these recessionary times, Paul Costelloe – the couture designer – has made available a range of silk designer communion dresses called “Occassionwear” for Dunnes Stores, apparently at marked down prices.
From silk dresses and parasols to simply having enough gin for the mother-in-law, the things that mums have to worry about this weekend are many and varied.
I will leave you with a flavour of the concerns on www.rollercoaster.ie this week.
One is from one distressed mother looking for “edible cup cake decorations” – just imagine the familial tragedy if she doesn’t get her hands on such an essential? Another mum is up the walls seeking “little table gifts for the guests” – pretty essential don’t you think? Yet one more nervous mother absolutely needs a “mobile tanning service in Cork” – enough said. One mum, realising what she’s in for, is seeking advice on a “children’s entertainer for a few hours” while, finally, a mother who calls herself “Cailindeas” is seeking a “giant game of connect four”. What could possible go wrong?
Sometimes I count my blessings for marrying into east Belfast.