£543... soaring cost of child's first Holy Communion
Northern Ireland parents are forking out more than £500 on average to celebrate their child's first Holy Communion, a new survey has revealed.
The average outlay of £543 per child has risen significantly since last year, according to the Ulster Bank survey, with £610 being spent on girls and £489 on boys.
Some parents (4%) admitted they had resorted to taking out a loan to fund the celebration or had accepted help from family and friends (12%). The average loan taken out came to £275.
Meanwhile, children making their Holy Communion this year received £293 on average in gifts, up from £263 in 2012 and marginally higher than £291 last year.
Parties, celebrations and food and drink were the biggest expenditure, with an average of £192 per child, and £151 was spent on average on the child's outfit. A visit to the beauty salon for girls averaged out at £26.
Toys were the most popular item bought by young people with the money they received, with 48% buying them. Next were clothes at 33%, followed by computer games (28%) and iPads or tablet computers (22%).
The Catholic Church urged moderation, saying the commercial pressures can be difficult for parents.
"The focus of the occasion of the first Holy Communion of the Church is on the celebration of the Eucharist and the reception of the Eucharist for the children," a spokesman said.
"The Church would encourage moderation in terms of that celebration, given the current fiscal situation. This can put tremendous pressure on parents and families in terms of the expenditure and preparation and the gifting."
Almost two-thirds of young people have so far spent less than 20% of their money, the survey reveals.
Stephen Cruise of Ulster Bank said: "First Holy Communion is probably one of the first times these children have received such a sum of money, providing them and their parents with choices to make about how much they spend. We would hope that at least some of the money will be saved. This is an opportunity to start a pot of savings to build on, as well as an opportunity to explain to young people about the importance of saving and good financial choices."
According to estimates from the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools, around 10,000 children made their First Holy Communion here in 2014.