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Bride of God

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

This picture was taken at my First Holy Communion in the Roman Catholic south of the Netherlands, where Catholicism has become more like tradition than religion (although one can ask whether religion is not always more like tradition than anything else).

The style of dress in this picture is quite representational of what I remember most about this ritual. Girls got dressed up in the most outrageous princess-like dresses and boys looked like forgotten side-kicks in their little monkey suits. Only later did I see that the girls were really dressed up as brides of God, and the boys, I don’t know what to make of. This cultus of female dress, as is also visible in the historic Dutch attire that is now on view at the Zuiderzee Museum exhibition “Gone with the Wind”, is a jumble of mixed messages of virginity and seductiveness, sobriety and decoration, even in children’s holy rituals.

4 Responses to “Bride of God”

  1. Rebekka von Zimmerman Says:

    Looking at your photo I really get your point about the strange mixture of contradictorily aspects expressed by the dresses. But I wonder a bit if this is as well a general thing about clothing in the early beginning of adolescence. At least I remember a similiar feeling of beeing completely disproportionate dressed in this age, especially for state occasions. Or is this fact in your opinion just stressed by the very ambivalent exposure of the catholic church to sexuality and growing sexuality in particular?

  2. Dovile Bernadisiute Says:

    Your post made me remember two events in my life too. Actually I have a really very similar photo of my childhood in a kindergarden in Lithuania,it seems as if it is even the same. Well this female dress cult really starts at a young age. However, as far as my experience is concerned there is nothing to be surprised by the Catholicism and the way the children are dressed for e.g. When I was 10 years old going to the church to receive Holy Communion I looked like a princessa from a fairy tale for sure, with my hair full of flowers.

  3. Marjanne van Helvert Says:

    The First Holy Communion is practised when one is hardly an adolescent; these kids are 7 and 8 years old. But to me this is just an extreme version of the ever lasting obsession with women’s dress and with female sexuality and virginity, especially in a religious context.

  4. Daniel Dressel Says:

    When I had my first Holy Communion we had to go to the altar in front of the church as ‘couples’: always one girl + one boy. I was also wearing one of these suits. When I see your picture I am amazed of all these colours that you wore at your Holy Communion because we had to wear a black suit while the girls wore only white dresses. We all carried candles in our hands. It really gave the whole scene the character of a solemn wedding ceremony!
    A couple of years later my little brother had his Holy Communion. In his case all the children where dressed like little novice monks in simple brown cowls. More and more catholic communities in Germany start to favour this simple (but also traditional) clothing. It gives the Holy Communion a much more humble and sincere character. It tries to erase the difference between boys and girls…


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