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What is First Communion?

Communion wafers and wine or grape juice.
Children are often given a rosary, a certificate, and a small bible after their first communion.
Priest showing wine and bread to the parish as part of Holy Communion.
A connection to Jesus Christ is the main purpose of Communion.
Priest giving the Holy Communion to a young girl.
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  • Originally Written By: Deborah Ng
  • Revised By: A. Joseph
  • Edited By: Niki Foster
  • Last Modified Date: 20 October 2014
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First Communion is considered one of the holiest and most important occasions in a Roman Catholic person's life. It is the first time that a person receives the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, which is the eating of consecrated bread and drinking of consecrated wine. Catholics believe these to be the body and blood of Jesus Christ. Most Catholic children receive their First Communion when they're 7 or 8 years old, because this is considered the age of reason. Other people can receive communion for the first time whenever they've met all of the Catholic Church's requirements.

Preparation

For anyone to receive communion, that person must be considered to be without sin and in a state of grace. Traditionally, young Catholic children will make their first confession, also called the Sacrament of Penance, a week before receiving their First Communion. At confession, the child will tell his or her sins and misdeeds to a priest and receive a penance in exchange. The penance usually is several prayers to be recited immediately after leaving the confessional. After this, the child is considered to be absolved of sin, and he or she is ready for his or her First Communion.

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Confession isn't the only requirement for receiving the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist; the Sacrament of Baptism must have been received as well. A child, or any person, who has not baptized cannot receive communion. If the child has been baptized, he or she generally begins studying for First Communion in first grade. Catholic children who don't attend Catholic school go to religious instruction classes after school or on weekends. In most cases for young children, at least two years of religious education must be undertaken before they can receive communion for the first time.

On the day of one's First Communion, and whenever receiving communion thereafter, those who are partaking must fast — which means not eating any food — for at least one hour before receiving the sacrament. Drinking water or taking medicine, however, are exceptions. This type of fasting is called the Eucharistic Fast.

Meaning

A child's first communion is often a cause for celebration, but to many Catholics, the event has a deeper meaning. They believe that the event means that a child has studied and understood, to the best of his or her ability, what Catholics call the mystery of transubstantiation — the changing of the substance of ordinary bread and wine into the substance of Jesus Christ's body and blood, according to Catholic beliefs. Catholics believe that, before receiving communion, a child also should be able to tell the difference between Eucharistic bread and regular food.

Afterward

After First Communion, young Catholics must attend church every Sunday, and they are encouraged to receive communion frequently, even weekly. If one has missed Sunday mass without good reason or has committed a mortal sin, that person is expected to go to confession before receiving communion again. Most Catholics go to confession at least once a year, usually during Lent — a 40-day observance that typically begins in February or early March and ends in late March or April.

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anon967056
Post 92

@anon224306: If you consciously and deliberately took Holy Communion knowing that you couldn't (maybe because you aren't baptized, maybe because you aren't validly married through the church's rites and rules, maybe because you have otherwise consciously and deliberately violated any of the 10 Commandments) you have committed a grave sin called sacrilege. In such cases, you must confess to a priest, if and only if you have been baptized.

Why to a priest? Because they have inherited from the apostles the job of being used by God to forgive sins and applying the merits of Jesus's sacrifice to for the forgiveness of your sins. You have to say all your grave sins, hiding none, or the confession isn't valid and is grave sin. Whatever you say in confession remains in confession (the priest would by rule stop being a priest if they said whatever they heard in confession). It cannot be used against you, not even in court.

As sins are like garbage, priests just forget about what you said after they give you the absolution (forgiveness of sin), just like you don't keep the garbage other people put on your hands to throw away. The priest may counsel you a bit before absolution. They are usually extremely kind, sp there is nothing to fear. If you haven't been baptized but believe in Jesus Christ as your saviour, you can get some preparation to be baptized.

Once you are baptized, all your sins are forgiven and you don't need confession, but you can only be baptized once in your lifetime: if you commit grave sin afterward you need confession to be forgiven and cannot receive holy communion until you are.

Even though it is not grave sin to receive Holy Communion without previous formal education about it, you must at least know what it is and means. The Church, though, mandates previous formal education about it, not because it would be sin to receive without education, but because it helps guarantee you know what you are doing and you will not commit sacrilege and helps you do it with due love, and benefit from it.

anon931112
Post 90

@anon, post 89: I know of at least three parishes that require the girls to wear a cloth diaper and plastic pants under their white tights with their communion dresses and a few others where it is a tradition for them to wear them.

The girls I talked to told me their communion dresses were considered extensions of their baptism outfits, so the cloth diaper and plastic pants were required to symbolize the purity and innocence of their baptisms. I know you may find this hard to believe, but it's true.

anon930846
Post 89

The wearing of a diaper and plastic pants for First Communion is a total fallacy and it is not Catholic ruling that young females doing first communion has to wear such apparel. It is not true that young females taking First Communion do not wear diapers/nappies and plastic pants under their communion dresses.

anon346740
Post 88

What's the deal with the rubber pants?

anon342215
Post 87

Our daughter, now 13, was adopted from an orphanage last year in Northern Ireland when she was 12. We brought her over here and gave her a whole new life.

We wanted to have her baptized and the baptism director told us since she was adopted and starting over that she had to be baptized as an infant through the infant baptism program, as that is the only way they would baptize her. We registered her as an infant on the infant roster and then we were told she had to wear the standard white gown, bonnet, tights and white shoes. We had the gown and bonnet made for her and got the white tights and shoes then had to have a cloth diaper made for her and got white rubber pants to wear over it with the required white under shirt. We dressed her in the parish nursery and she was very cute and adorable in the outfit. She even had a pacifier that she sucked on during the ceremony.

anon339083
Post 86

My partner's ex is a Catholic and wishes their son to be brought up a Catholic. My partner and I are not Catholic, but are more than willing to take his son to Mass every other Sunday on our weekends. Do we have to attend the same church, because my partner's ex is refusing to attend a difference service and is insisting on attending the same service as her son, but this upsets him as he sees his mum and has to say goodbye? Can we attend a different Church and that still count towards attendance?

anon329024
Post 84

Re: communion and porn - your nine year old grandchild is going through a very normal stage of curiosity and her online activity is indicative of that, not that she doesn't understand or deserve Communion.

Your only action should be to let her parents know what you found and let them handle it. The church doesn't need to get involved.

anon323768
Post 83

My children are to have their first communions in April. The priest wants us to complete community service for the church. I have not found time and we live a very busy life. So from my understanding he is going to deny the children their first communions. What should we do? How can you deny everything these kids have worked for.

anon288366
Post 82

Does the first holy communion make the holy spirit who dwells inside my body leave my body?

I am having distressing moments because of the unloving holy spirit who tries to kill me.

Can first holy communion make the holy spirit who dwells and makes it difficult to leave my body inside my body, leave my body?

abca1958
Post 80

I am not Catholic. I caught my sneaky 9 year old granddaughter viewing pornographic websites immediately after her first communion. I then discovered that she had also visited the websites numerous times for at least two months prior the her first communion. Doesn't this mean that she didn't truly understand the significance of taking communion?

rnm
Post 78

Why would you have to confess your sins to a priest when he is just another man just like us, with sin. The only person to confess our sins to is Jesus Christ! John 14:6 Jesus said to him, "I am the the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me."

anon263401
Post 74

What does the white arm band worn by boys at their First Communion represent?

lynnrader
Post 73

Lutherans also receive First Communion, although it is not celebrated like the Catholics do. First Communion is when they receive their Confirmation, usually when they are 12 or 13 years old.

anon249207
Post 71

My nephew is having his First Communion coming up and I found a cool St. Christopher sports medal for him online.

anon248196
Post 70

I am a grandma and our eight year old granddaughter is making her first communion this coming May. We offered to buy her a communion outfit so my daughter sent us the list of the required outfit for the girls. They have to wear a white bonnet instead of the veil with their dresses. Has anyone heard of girls wearing a bonnet with their communion dresses?

anon224306
Post 68

I am from a hindu family got married to christian. I was baptised and did the marriage class but did not go to catechism class, so I did not receive first communion.

During the marriage ceremony priest gave me the holy communion which I accepted, and after that I attended church and many times I have taken holy communion.

Now I stopped going to church, having guilt that I have been committing the sin intentionally. I have tried to confess before a priest but I am scared.

Can anybody answer me if it is a sin to take Holy Communion without going through catechism class and First Communion? Can I confess my sin before God in private?

anon203064
Post 67

For confession, one should go to priest? Why?

anon199238
Post 66

I would like to know if a person over the age of 65 and has missed Mass through no fault of their own, can they still receive Holy Communion without receiving the sacrament of reconciliation?

anon176573
Post 65

i am a girl 16 and roman catholic. i was just confirmed. our parish has strict dress requirements for both first communion and confirmation. the boys had to wear white suits and ties and we girls had to wear a poofy, floor-length dress with a veil, elbow length gloves and low cut shoes. Under our dresses, we had to wear an undershirt, cloth diaper, plastic pants and white tights.

The first communion and confirmation dresses are extensions of the baptism gowns we were baptized in as babies so the underwear is required to symbolize the purity of our baptisms for first communion and confirmation.

It was weird walking walking down the aisle with a diaper and plastic pants on under our tights!

anon175257
Post 64

my nine year old cousin just made her first communion on may first. a bunch of us female relatives participated in dressing her. a couple of them gave her a bubble then brought her in to her room and laid her on her bed. after her rubdown with baby lotion,we pinned her cloth communion diaper on her then put the rubber pants on over it then her under shirt. her lace anklets and shoes were put on, then her poofy communion dress and veil. she looked very dainty and precious.

anon171723
Post 62

My best friend's little sister is getting her first communion today. I actually had never heard of one before, but this is rather interesting.

flossy925
Post 61

I am not Catholic (I am Baptist) but I have been invited to a former student's First Communion. I'd like to attend to show support for my student but am a bit nervous since I am unfamiliar with this important sacrament.

I want to make sure I know what to expect and that I show proper respect so that I don't offend anyone. I'm not sure if I will know anyone other than my student and his family. Please tell me what I can expect. There is a potluck dinner afterward. Is it ok if I just go for the First Communion and not the dinner? I just think that might be more for the family.

anon166511
Post 59

I just finished ordering my First Communion invitations today. I am so excited for my son to partake in his first Eucharist. I love all the First Communion resources on your site -- absolutely helpful.

anon155414
Post 56

Why so many anonymous posters? I am Protestant and my ex - wife is Catholic. I do not want my seven year old son to take his First Communion. He is far too young. All this blind faith in the priests is why so many children have been abused. Peter F.

Moderator's reply: All posters who do not register with wiseGEEK are listed as anonymous. Thanks for visiting the site and for contributing to the discussion forums.

anon155191
Post 55

I have a question that I am not sure about. I have a 10 year old daughter and a 7 year old daughter. I did not start my 10 year old in CCD because I wanted her to make the decision on what religion she wanted to practice, so she decided at 9 that she was ready, but my younger daughter wanted to start on time in first grade.

they both have been studying for two years to make their communion. My older daughter has been studying with other older children deciding to join the catholic church. From the beginning, I made it clear to the church that I was excited for them to be making their communion together.

For my younger daughter, the church sent home a list of dates that I could choose for the communion, but when i called to book it they said that my older daughter could only make her communion on at the Easter welcoming mass. This wouldn't be an issue except that this service is at 8 p.m. and lasts for three hours, so this means that there will have to be two different ceremonies and that my older daughter will not have my family there to share in her moment

Also, with it being so late we can't do a party, and my other daughter would get my whole family there for hers which isn't fair to the other. I tried to speak with the church about this but they won't budge. I don't see what the issue is. They both studied for two years and she isn't that far behind. She is still a little girl and she is so upset that she is contemplating not even doing it. Is this a set in stone rule? is it in the bible?

anon150116
Post 54

14 children due to take first holy communion at on a saturday in June. Of those 14, only one attends mass (the family are devout) and the rest will make their first holy communion and not even their Sunday obligation. we as a parish will never meet them. The worship isn't of god, but of a local secondary school with good results. A sad state of affairs that needs to be addressed by our Bishops but is ignored because it makes the figures look good.

anon149337
Post 53

I am 16 and a girl and making my first communion this may. I am going to look around and find my dream communion dress and veil. I want to feel very dainty and pure so i want a beautiful dress. i am wearing tights and patent leather shoes.

amypollick
Post 52

@thequestion: I am not Catholic either, but I do understand the importance of the Mass in their rituals.

How about this as a possible solution: Call your local parish priest and have *him* call your son's priest, explain the situation, and that your local priest will be sure to note that your son attended Sunday morning Mass on the weekends he's with you. Your local priest might be able to accomplish what you calling your son's priest might not.

I don't know that it will work, but it's certainly worth a try. Good luck and God bless!

thequestion
Post 51

I have a question i need some advice on. I am a Christian, but not Catholic, so i do not know much about certain catholic rituals.

I have a son with an ex-girlfriend. I get him on a fortnightly weekend basis only (not my choice, but his mother's). He is being brought up in the catholic faith. I do not mind this as he is still worshipping our Lord god, so i am fine with this.

The problem i have is that she has now told me that he will be making his first communion in five months, and as a result, her priest has said he must attend morning mass every Sunday without fail.

Previously, on the weekends i have him, he goes to mass on Sunday evening when i drop him back at his mums. The problem i have is that this has cut my time with my son down to one day only a fortnight.

I have spoken to a number of catholic friends and they have told me that as he goes to a catholic school, he would get mass there also, and that on top of evening mass on Sunday, should be fine.

As you can imagine, the times i have with my son on weekends are precious to me and losing a day with him, especially as my wife and I have a new baby and he has now has a new baby sister, it is very difficult.

She has suggested I take him to mass and I have said I I would take him to a local catholic church where I live, as I cannot drive 40 – 50 minutes to take him to her church every Sunday morning, then drive back to my home, then drive back to her for Sunday evening. Also all our planned activities as a family he can no longer attend, including weekend break in February and march.

Can you tell me why her priest would insist that he must attend Sunday morning mass for the next five months without fail?

anon146395
Post 49

to anon 22170: you should be baptized as soon as you can and then start you classes for first holy communion.i assume you are a girl?if so you should ask your priest if you can be baptized as an infant through the infant baptism program. it is far more meaningful and symbolizes your purity of an infant. you would have to wear a white dress and bonnet, tights and shoes for your baptism as an infant. many parishes baptize older girls as infants and they are dressed just like an infant for the ceremony.

anon135913
Post 48

to anon 125393: yes you should make your first communion at 16. then you will be confirmed at 18. if you are a girl,you should wear the traditional communion dress, veil, gloves, shoes, tights, plastic pants (baby style) and under shirt.

anon135135
Post 47

we have a 13 year old adopted daughter from ireland who has the mentality of a seven year old. we just baptized her as an infant to start her over. we did the traditional white gown,bonnet, tights and booties on her. we did a girls first communion cloth diaper and rubber pants under her tights. it was a special day as she entered god's kingdom.

anon126188
Post 46

All sacraments must be completed in order: 1. Baptism, 2. Eucharist, 3.Reconciliation(confession), 4. Confirmation, 5. Matrimony, 6. Holy Orders, 7. Anointing the Sick

You can't just skip one.

anon125393
Post 45

I'm 15 and i have been baptized but moved from my real mum and dad. I'm a catholic but i have not had my first holy communion because the people i live with aren't catholic. they say I'm too old but i want to have my first holy communion next year when I am 16. is that possible? please tell me.

anon124166
Post 44

I have recently returned to the Catholic church after about 20 years and would like my children to receive their communion but am told by my very ill and old priest that we have no catechists in the parish. My eldest child is nearly 12 but with learning difficulties and my youngest will be seven in a couple of weeks. My 11 year old attends a Catholic school, my youngest does not. Nothing seems to be getting done. What can do?

anon119359
Post 43

To those who think this is not in the Bible, please read John 6: 51-66.

anon118405
Post 42

@Anon22170: I will pray for you that you will be able to receive the Sacraments. Patience is a virtue with God. Keep learning all you can so you will be able to use these gifts God is giving you now to know, love and serve Him on earth to be able to be with Him forever in Heaven! Amen. From a First Reconciliation/First Holy Communion preparation teacher.

anon115208
Post 41

priests cannot forgive our sins. Jesus is our only mediator. We are not cannibals, so why would God want us to eat flesh and drink blood?

anon108476
Post 40

Through Holy Communion, Catholics are also recommitting themselves as offerings to our Lord Jesus Christ, as in our baptism. We renew our faith, renew our promises to our Lord, and commit to following his example.

As he offered himself up to us, we offer ourselves back to Him and His loving grace.

Also, as a former Protestant, to those that do not understand the whys and wherefores of these sacraments, they are firmly based in the history of Christian faith and firmly rooted in both religious history and scripture. Also, the Church and religious traditions and teachings were around long before a formal bible was formulated and all Christians can thank the Catholic Church for the first ever bibles as modern day bibles get their foundation from the Mother Church.

anon107260
Post 39

I have a 10 year old daughter with Downs Syndrome. She can read on a second grade level, but her comprehension is still not at that level yet. I would like for her to be able to make her First Communion with my 7 year old daughter who will begin her preparation this year. Are there any compensations for her disability since she may never really understand the concept of the Eucharist?

anon99112
Post 37

"Catholics become one with Christ and believe they will share in His eternal life."

In the case of their children, you believe it for them.

anon88949
Post 36

This is a great article, thanks. I have found some good ideas for first communion gifts that any child would love.

anon82567
Post 35

to #32 and others that think alike: it's okay not to agree with what we think. freedom of speech is a wonderful thing. however, freedom of religion is just as good. if you don't like our practices get over it. we are allowed to practice them as we please.

anon82510
Post 34

Catholicism is the oldest christian religion know to man. Many catholics believe in tradition and those that ridicule or question their beliefs, well, that's the wonderful thing about America: the freedom to choose how you would like to believe, if you even believe.

Don't waste your energy trying to figure it all out or making judgmental remarks. For anon 81323, Ash Wednesday is another holy day that you might want to research.

As a Catholic, I am not afraid of death and I embrace all the sacraments that allow me to appreciate what Jesus has suffered and endured to give us the opportunity for eternal life.

Don't judge, just believe and practice with what you are comfortable with. Thank you.

anon81670
Post 33

I don't think anyone should ever do this. It's overly religious and none of this is in the Bible! Communion is but not first communion nor confession nor that you have to be baptized in order to receive it. All that's required is being a believer on Jesus Christ!

anon81323
Post 32

The more I read up on this, the more ridiculous this sounds. I mean, it sounds so weird that humans create and spend time on all these elaborate ceremonies and procedures just because they can't handle the fact that they are going to be dead as the dirt when they die. I mean seriously people, you're eating a piece of bread, do you actually think that's going to change your life?

anon81084
Post 31

Answers to some of the above q's. If you were baptized Catholic, but never received first Communion, you should talk to your priest. They will likely wish for you to receive some catechism before you receive first communion.

The eastern rite Catholics and Orthodox traditionally perform all three sacraments of initiation (baptism, communion, and confirmation) all together for infants. Therefore, they usually do not have a separate first communion.

Most Protestants do not celebrate it as they do not view Communion the same way as Catholics. Catholics believe the Lord is truly present, body and blood, soul and divinity, in the bread and wine once it is consecrated by the priest during Mass.

Protestants hold it as merely symbolic.

anon81021
Post 30

Dear 69942: Yes, it is very bad to receive Holy Communion if you have not been prepared to receive this Sacrament. Precisely, because you must first understand who it is you are going to receive - Jesus Christ. Thus it is not bread. Holy Communion is not an occasion for "come one, come all" but only those who are worthy. Jesus has given the Church authority to decide who is worthy to receive the Lord.

But, Jesus wants people to come to Him, so talk to a Priest in your area.

anon76871
Post 29

If you were baptized but have not done your first communion, just talk to your priest and you can start preparing for first communion and possibly for confirmation at the same time.

anon76870
Post 28

Godparents are chosen for baptism and confirmation. Your baptism Godparents are expected to be at your communion as support. You don't need to appoint for Godparents for first communion

anon76869
Post 27

1st communions are usually in May, sometimes June.

anon73432
Post 26

I was baptized in the catholic church but after that i was never really in touch anything, so my question is what do i do during mass when everyone else goes up to receive communion and i have to get in line with them? what do i do after the priest blesses me? I know i am supposed to cross my arms but what action do i do after the priest blesses me?

anon73193
Post 25

are 1st communions done at a certain time of the year?

anon70951
Post 24

What are the godparents' responsibilities at first communion?

anon69942
Post 23

Is it bad if you haven't had your communion but you eat the bread anyway?

anon65188
Post 22

I am an adult and was baptized when I was a young child, and I never made my first holy communion, but would like to now. How to I go about that?

anon64683
Post 21

im 12 and not yet been baptized or had my 1st communion and i go to catholic school and we have masses i want my first communion like every one else please help me i want it badly. - anon22170

You need to speak with a priest at the Catholic Church where you attend school. There are classes called RCIA that you can go to for becoming a Catholic which is how you can be baptized and receive your first communion. I'd talk to the grown-ups at your school to help you with that. I admire you wanting to become Catholic. God bless you.

anon61403
Post 20

i'm 10 years old and i've been baptized but my parents never took the time to organize my first communion. i'm now learning my prayers.

amypollick
Post 19

anon51011, this is a subject you need to discuss with your priest. The next time you go to confession, just tell him the circumstances and ask him if you are eligible to receive communion. He will know the answer, and can help you with the process.

anon51011
Post 18

What if I'm a catholic and I've never received my first communion? am i allowed to take the bread and wine? i understand that it represents jesus and when i was younger i couldn't afford a first communion but i was still taught about God and everything and i go to confession. is it against the rules for me to take the bread and wine or am i still allowed to?

anon49144
Post 17

i'm 19 yrs old and I was baptized wen I was young and then moved to US not long after. When I came to the US my family did not go to church. I want to start going to church again. What do i have to do to get my first communion?

anon48728
Post 16

what do you need to know mostly in your catechism during your first communion mostly?

anon45183
Post 15

Answer to above. Christians believe we are saved by grace alone, there are no "works" you have to do in order to be saved. Jesus died on the cross for our sins. He saved us from death, he took all our sins to the cross. You go to Christ for forgiveness.

anon38507
Post 14

Is this right? I was going to enroll my daughter to start taking her classes for her first communion. However, I was told that my wife and I also must attend classes once a week (same day as daughter). I told them that I work shift work and am unable to attend. My wife can't attend because we have a 4 month old and a 5 yr. old (no baby sitter). They told me I culd not enroll her!! Why do my wife and I need to got to class? I already did my first communion and as far as I know my parents didn't have to go to class. I'm very dissapointed and upset.

anon36989
Post 13

What do you need to know to get prepared for your 1st communion?

anon28652
Post 12

Dear anon17202,

To find the answer to your question, read the above information on this website. Its all right here. Take care. :)

anon22565
Post 11

Dear anon22170, the one who is 12 at a Catholic school and wants to receive communion badly:

Please go get baptized right away!! Talk to the priest at your school and tell him that you want to be baptized and that you are not yet. This is VERY important for anyone who believes in Jesus, because he asks us to be baptized.

Second, tell him that you want to receive the Eucharist at communion, and he will help you get involved in a short program that will prepare you.

Your desire is from God, so follow it!! Your faith is too important to let slide by.

anon22170
Post 10

im 12 and not yet been baptized or had my 1st communion and i go to catholic school and we have masses i want my first communion like every one else please help me i want it badly.

anon18168
Post 8

do Christians celebrate first communion, reconciliation and conformation??

anon17792
Post 7

Is it possible to have first communion if you are not catholic? I am only 11 but i am thinking of becoming Catholic.

anon17202
Post 6

this guy liam told me that first communion means going into God's family as his son and that you get free ice cream from priests i don't know what to believe any hints fellow Catholics? or "different" Christians. anyone else can also answer me?

anon14772
Post 4

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, Eastern Orthodox Churches practice infant communion so they don't practice as Catholics do. Catholics allow children to have their first communion when they reach the age of discretion or reason — meaning, when they'll be able to recognize the difference between the Eucharist and a regular bread, though in most countries, there is a set age for First Communion. There are no sponsors for First Communion, only during Baptism and Confirmation.

anon13643
Post 3

what is the role of a sponsor at a first communion??

anon7244
Post 1

I know first communion is traditionally associated with the Roman Catholic Church, but what about other Christian religions. Do they not celebrate it? Like what about the Eastern Orthodox Church? Or is this determined by whether the denomination starts giving the sacrament to children earlier than the Catholics do (i.e., at 6/7 years old). Or maybe it's because Catholics have more rituals? Anyone know?

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