James Whelan Butchers: Communion Time


The season for celebrations is upon us.  Communions and confirmations abound.  During the Celtic Tiger years many will agree that the whole thing was getting a little out of hand.  I was a guest at one or two ceremonies during that time and remember some eyebrow raising moments when the cost of the child’s dress was discussed or the amount of money the child ‘collected’ was revealed.   I reflected on my own communion and confirmation, which weren’t without celebration, but seemed to have a different set of values attached.   I certainly remember them being special and a huge amount of effort was put in, but it could never have been compared to the ‘mini weddings’ of today.  Needless to remark the kind of things I was dreaming of buying with the proceeds didn’t involve high tech gadgets like mobile phones, mp3 players, DS Nintendos or Wii game consoles that all seem to cost the bones of the average weekly industrial wage!   My dreams were smaller and, as my mother insisted, included a boring savings account!

While no one would ever have wished for the downturn perhaps it forces people to come to their senses.  I think sometimes it makes us focus on the actual event rather than the shiny packaging, but it shouldn’t make us feel that we are being deprived or that the occasion would be much better if we had an unlimited budget.  If anything we might find that having to be a little more creative with the entertaining rather than just throwing money at it, brings a much higher satisfaction rating overall.

For many the answer to the party dilemma is to have it at home.  Having any kind of celebration at home has many benefits and not all of them are budgetary.  Because you are in your own home the children and the guests’ children are free to run around as much as they want.  They have access to all their toys and have more freedom than they do in a hotel or restaurant.  We have all witnessed bored youngsters hanging around hotel foyers trying to amuse themselves.  Usually the adults will sit huddled in a nearby group and every now and again as the noise escalates and the running reaches fever pitch some says, “Hey lads, calm down”.  The miniature marauding gang will usually stop for all of thirty seconds before the din starts again.  It’s unfair to ask children to be quiet just because the environment doesn’t lend itself to their games, particularly as it is their special day.

There is also the intangible benefit of getting the family around and sharing food or a meal with them in your own home.  There is something very special about this act of breaking bread together and sharing these special moments in our children’s lives.  Jewish families have long known the benefits and regularly share long lazy days with food as the centerpiece.  In Ireland our busy lifestyles, shift work and extra curricular activities mean that many families have largely moved away from the idea of sitting down together for meals.  The clock often dictates and it is definitely damaging our sense of family and our sense of connection.  This means that occasions when the generations come together are even more special.

So how do you keep it simple but at the same time make it simply stunning within budget?  The first thing with any form of party planning is to draw up a list of guests.   This will often dictate the catering needs.   If there are elderly family members for example there may be special dietary requirements or a buffet may not suit.  If the numbers allow perhaps a sit down meal would be a better arrangement.  If you do decide on a buffet style, it’s up to you whether you want to go with all finger food or a full plate hot or cold buffet; there are a myriad of choices.

Creating the meal can often seem daunting but there are many ways around it.  Due to the sudden increase in home entertaining we spent several days putting together our outside catering menu.  It features hot, cold and finger food options all delivered to your door without any of the hassle (and you can still take the credit.  We don’t cook and tell!).  Some people rely on us entirely to do the work while others will create most of the dishes and augment their selection with just one or two things from our selection.  The full range is available to look at online at jameswhelanbutchers.com.  Of course we’re not the only ones doing take away party food and there are plenty of options all worth exploring.  One of the other benefits to having the celebrations at home is the leftovers!  You are not returning tired and hungry to a cold house in the early evening having to make do with a sandwich.  This way the party can go on all day and, if planned correctly, there’ll be little cooking to do the following day.

Probably the most important thing about a home event is that the celebrant, the child, can have a much greater involvement in the arrangements.  They can choose colours and themes for table decorations.  They can get involved in choosing the food and sometimes, even making it.  This can make for a really satisfying experience for the whole family.  If there are other children in the family, they too can get involved in the planning.  They can offer opinions, suggest ideas and sometimes even make things for the event.

I always think it’s appropriate that most confirmations and communions take place in the late spring, early summer period.  This time of year is all about renewal.  Having a party at home gives us all a chance to catch up with friends and loved ones after the long winter.  It offers an opportunity to nourish with food and embrace our family in the bosom of our own home.  It is also a great example for our children that events and celebrations are about good people, good food and plenty of love rather than expense and fancy venues.  Having a wonderfully positive experience of fun and fellowship will create memories that last a lifetime. I welcome your feedback to pat@jwb.ie.

We hope you enjoyed reading this post by Pat Whelan of James Whelan Butchers. Pat is a 5th generation butcher, cook book author and the director of  James Whelan Butchers with shops in Clonmel, the Avoca Handweavers Rathcoole and Kilmacanogue, Dunnes Stores Cornelscourt, Rathmines and Swords in Dublin. Sign up to our newsletter for more updates from James Whelan Butchers

Leave a Comment