Germany is primarily a Protestant country, but there is a very large Catholic minority. Catholic boys often have special suits for first communion. At this time we know realtively little about the styles. Some French boys wore sailor suits, I'm not sure if German boys did also. Some German boys wore white shirt pants suits, often with kneesocks. Some boys wore long stockings or tights. The girls as in other countries wore junior wedding dresses. This is normally a major event in a Catholic boy's life and a major family celebration. Protestant boys may get new suits for communion or confirmation. We have no information at this time as to chronological trends on German First Communion suits. The shoulder devices look somewhat different than the ribbons and bows that were common in some other countries. Boys sometimes wore long stockings with short pants suits as the weather in Germany is sometimes quite chilly. Long pants suits begame more common in the 1970s.
Germany is primarily a Protestant country, but there is a very large Catholic minority. This is normally a major event in a Catholic boy's life and a major family celebration. Protestant boys may get new suits for communion or confirmation.
We are not sure about the ages of the German children doing First Communion. When done at school it was children of about the same age. This is difficult to assess, but the children look to be about 7-8 year olds in the group portraits. We do not know if there was a church rule. We think this may have been deternmined in indidividual bisophroces. And until the NAZI era, there was substantial variatiin from statye (Landen) to state as the German Empire had been a union several independent countries and in many areas such as education and religion was not centralized. Perhaps our German readers will know more about this. We also see groups that look to be different ages, perhaps 6-10 years of age. We think that some parents wanted all their children, at least all their children of a certain age, to do their First Communion together. At least we see family groups that look to b dressed up for First Communion. If the preparation and ceremony was done thriugh the church, which was often the case, then this would have been relatively easy to arrange. The examples we have found are mostly pre-World War II groups.
We note many images of lines of children always with the boys and girls separte marching in a procession to the church. We are not sure just where the procession began. Presumably it was on a Sunday. Many of the photographs suggest it was done once a year, perhaps in April or May. German children very commonly took large candles to their First Communions. I am not sure when this tradition began, buy it was clerly well established by the eraly 20th centiry. The candels are normally presented to the child at his or her baptism. It is also common to get a Bible as a present. These candles are lit and the flames aren't usually artificial. (Artificial flames are used in some of the old photographs to make them look like they are burning.)
German Catholic boys have worn a wide variety of different clothing styles for First Communion. These styles like all fashions have changed over time. Some boys were given special suits just for their First Communion. Other boys were given a new suit, but one that could be worn for best and not specificallybstyled for First Communion. At this time we know realtively little about the styles. Some French boys wore sailor suits, I'm not sure if German boys did also. Some German boys wore white shirt pants suits, often with kneesocks. Some boys wore long stockings or tights. Boys sometimes wore long stockings with short pants suits as the weather in Germany is sometimes quite chilly. Long pants suits begame more common in the 1970s. The girls as in other countries wore junior wedding dresses.
We have little infrmation at this time as to chronological trends on German First Communion suits. We have not found any written sources. We do not a range of images in the photographic record. We have begun to acquire German images of boys taking their First Communion, some of which are dated or are fairly easy to date. This has allowed us begin to assess costume and other trends over time, but our limited number of images and the fact that not all are dated, makes it difficult to draw any firm conclusions at this time. Interestingly, virtually all the images come from the 20th century. We are not let sure why this is. Did First Communion become a more important event in the 20th century? Surely children in the 19th century commonly did First Communion, but for some reasons parents did not seem to think it was important enough to photogrph until the 20th century. A factor here is that photography did not become very important until the introduction of the CDV (1860s) and even then it was not as wide sopread as America. But we do not even see ruich people photographing their children's First Communiion in the 19th century. Of course we do not see American communions until the 1890s, but that was in pet because there werre so few Catholics in America until southern Europeans began to emograte in numbers (1880s). We do see many German boys doing their First Communion in the 20th century. Hopefully our German readers will tell us about their experiences.
There are some similarities in the German first communion portraits to the portraits taken elsewhere. The German boys commonly have their rosaries and Bibles. The major difference is that very commonly the German boys are photographed with a large lir candel. This was common in the portraits that we have noted in the early 20th century and we note it here in this portrait taken in the 1950s (figure 1). There is another difference. Most German boys do not appear to wear the shoulder devices, ribbons and bows, that were common in some other countries. The shoulder devices that we do see look somewhat different.
Religion was a subject in the curriculum in the various German states when Hitler seized power in 1933. It was immediately deemphasized in the curriculum. Hitler signed an agreement with the Vatican to respect the tradutional rights of the Catholic Church. In fact Hitler launched an undecalred war on the Christain churches. The war agianst the Jews was well known. The NAZI efforts against christianity had to be more descrete a most Germans considered themselves Christians. The Hitler Youth would for example scedule activities on Sunday making it difficult for boys to attend Church and Church activities. Church schools were taken over by the state. May prirsts were arrested and died in the conentration camps. If the Germans had won the War, NAZIS actions against the establoshed churches would have become much more overt. Many boys still did their confirmations, some in their Hitler Youth uniforms.
We have received a few comments from our German readers about their First Cmmunuions. Often these personal experience sections are the most interesting sections of HBC. Hopefully we can expand this section as more of our German readers provide us information on their own experiences. Readers are welcomed to make these contributions in German if that would be easier. A HBC reader tells us, "At my first communion on White Sunday 1990. I wore a white shirt, grey suit like trousers and black shinning shoes, a black jacket and a red bow tie. The other boys wore suits, too. Black trousers and bow ties, one of them a black jacket and the other a grey - black checked ("caroed") jacket." Another German reader tells us, "I wore a suit for my First Communion in 19??. For my confirmation I also wore a suit which is the common practice. Protestants are usually confirmed around age 14 years. This is so that the children have a similar age for entering the "social world". I was confirmed at age 18."
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