Jennifer O’Connell: ‘It’s troubling to discover how much I enjoy a communion bash’

I regret my kids’ missing out on the tradition. And the potato salad

In our three years living abroad, I had forgotten what May in Ireland is all about. The great pink hunks of roast lamb and potato salad; the bowls of coleslaw and cous cous; the adults sitting in the weak sun with glasses of gently warming white wine; the urgent gangs of preteens rushing to wherever the adults are not; the bouncy castle burns on little knees; the shoes gone astray only to turn up when the bouncy castle man comes to take the whole thing away; the three-year-old so exhausted by it all, she falls asleep fully upright, her back against my knee and her head lolling like a drunk.

There was a time when it seemed we spent every single Saturday going to weddings. A decade on, we spend every Saturday in the month of May going to communions. Communion parties are basically weddings for people in their 40s – only better, because they don’t involve the agony of waking with a raging hangover in the overheated bedroom of a mid-range hotel. They don’t involve negotiations with overnight babysitters. Guests are not just permitted, but usually expected, to skip the church part, and just come along for the grub and the craic. Communions are weddings for people who’ve most likely already had a wedding, and are determined to do it right this time.

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