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As regular as clockwork

There have been lots of things going on since I got here and, particularly since the beginning of this year - Kings, San Sebastian, Las Águedas, San Blas, San Anton and, of course, Carnaval. Their organisation is second nature to all the locals. They don't need to be told that this and that happens on such and such a day at this or that place, it's simply their culture, a local tradition. To me, new to the the town, they have all been fascinating events to gawp at.

As I strolled home this evening I noticed this shop window display. A sign that it's First Communion time. 

Spain isn't very Catholic anymore in the sense that far and away the majority of people aren't churchgoers or even believers but it is still incredibly Catholic in its celebrations. Government Ministers continue to be sworn in with their hand on a bible in front of a crucifix, the great majority of holidays and fiestas have some Church link and there is a story of an old communist and his daughter's First Communion. When a Fellow Traveller asked him why he was submitting his daughter to the ritualistic Church mumbo jumbo he answered "Because I'm Spanish!"

From what I've heard First Communion is now also the opportunity for an ostentatious show of wealth. The outfits, little admirals and miniature brides, are chosen with an enormous attention to detail and apparently 500€ is a pretty typical price for the girl's get up. I understand that arriving at a church in a hired limo is reasonably commonplace and the meal is a hugely costly affair - the more guests you can afford to sit down and the more splendid the menu the better for your social standing. The average cost last year was reported as 3,600€ but, bear in mind, if a poor family only spends 1,000€ on it's communion the richer family could spend 6,200€ and the average price would still hold.

There was a bit of a hiccough in this palaver last year when the Church decided that there should be changes to the teaching of the catechism. I've heard two stories, one that it was not thorough enough and so the classes were extended for another year and the other was that children had to be at least ten when they went through the ceremony. It could be that both are true and the differences are due to different practices in different dioceses. Either way this halted the flow of celebrants for a year and punched a big hole in the incomes of the people who sell the communion clothes, take the photographs and make the videos as well as the banqueting rooms that host the post event meals. It was not a popular decision. Just to give you some idea one of the places that advertises its catering services back in Alicante was able to seat 3,000 people - I presume they expect to host several events at once but even then it's a lot of chairs, a lot of cooking and a lot of waiters.


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