≡ Menu

Of confirming and conforming

I have to confess that I felt a pang of sympathy when I read a post on Eyjan this morning about how many people are currently in trouble as a result of their children’s upcoming confirmations.

A few years back I wrote a post about the preparation for AAH’s confirmation. As I explained there, confirmations are a BIG DEAL here in Iceland and there is enormous pressure to conform [just as there is with so many other aspects of this society].

Confirmations are expensive. In addition to the actual ceremony, new outfits, and so on, you are expected to throw a lavish party that includes all members of the extended family – at least all those you have any sort of regular [and even not-so regular] contact with. In most cases, renting a hall and catering is required.

So for all those people who are already struggling in the current economic climate, this can be a devastating predicament. Confirmation season is coming up – and my heart goes out to all the people who don’t know how they’re going to manage.



Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Lissy February 25, 2010, 1:59 pm

    Yes, I absolutely agree. My cousin was sure she could handle it, like it would be no problem, but then one look at the actual bill I think got her realizing just how tough it would be to pull off. Still, I think she will do something appropriate, maybe just at home.

  • Michael Lewis February 25, 2010, 2:08 pm

    I find it slightly odd that young children are confirmed at all, certainly not common in the UK. I was confirmed (Anglican) as an adult. My wife and I ensured our son was baptized. It wasn’t a overly fancy affair either (a good thing). And that’s it. For me, confirmation, was an adult choice and I’m glad I never went through a confirmtion prior to making the choice entirely myself.

  • Tom Harper February 25, 2010, 2:15 pm

    Is confirmation in Iceland a big deal because of the religious importance, or is it simply more of a rite of passage with respect to growing up?

  • alda February 25, 2010, 2:30 pm

    Neither. It’s about the presents. 😉

  • sylvia hikins February 25, 2010, 2:34 pm

    In Liverpool with its big catholic population, confirmation is an important event in a young person’s life. In town there are shops selling suits and dresses and designs for the confirmation cake. We might not have a kreppa here (yet) but money is tight and I have noticed that more is being offered at the lower price range of the confirmation market. There could be economies of scale if several people from the same family or neighbourhood were ‘done’ together! It’s a bit like Christmas- social pressure and the plastic credit card make a lethal combination. Maybe the Pope should intervene(or whoever is the equivalent in the Lutheran Church)!!!!
    sylvia from viking wirral

  • Tom Harper February 25, 2010, 2:35 pm

    Ah, I see =) Bit of a shame for kids becoming the wrong age at the wrong time, then =/

  • Peter - London February 25, 2010, 4:30 pm

    When I was confirmed there was no party, presents or anything like that. Its just another sad example of materialism spoiling a private religion ceremony.

    Fortunately I’m the sort of person who feels happy about not conforming. I’m getting married soon, for instance, but there won’t be an expensive wedding; just a very very large amount of Vodka.

  • Sonja February 25, 2010, 4:52 pm

    After working with people that were confirming their children (3 at the same time), I discovered that it was not about the presents at all. Yes they are a nice part of it for the kids, but the children (age 13) are never asked if they want to be confirmed or not. Their mothers start to plan for their confirmations a year in advance (renting a hall, planning for the event). The language gives it away as well. The mothers say “I’m confirming my oldest this spring” not “My oldest will be confirmed this spring”. Confirming is just something you are expected to do at 13-14 years (depending when in the year you are born). Your whole class goes to the priest together, and nowhere in the process does anyone actually ask you if this is what you want to do or even if you actually know what it is all about.

  • Snorri February 25, 2010, 5:23 pm

    The majority of comments on the Eyjan post say it all for me. Confirmation was never a “big deal” in my family and nobody has ever made a “big deal” when I’ve told them I didn’t get confirmed. To be honest I don’t feel the least bit sorry for any of the people who are “struggling” now with confirmation. I’m not religious but to turn such an important ritual into something so materialistic and showy has always seemed offensive to me.

  • Easy February 25, 2010, 5:51 pm

    Please!! dont feel sorry for that!! This is just another sad example of how twisted priorities are in this country. I think we should worry and ctually do something for people with REAL problems, like not making it to the end of the month or losing their houses, etc. Hope the ban is gone and my post is not insesitive.

  • Daniel Halldorsson February 25, 2010, 6:18 pm

    I agree with Snorri, I don’t feel sorry for them either. Change the tradition, focus on the important aspects of it and trim off the fat. People care too much about what other people think.

    Though i am not religious now (nor was i ever really religious despite being funneled through the church system like most kids) I was confirmed, in Australia, and it involved a church ceremony and a certificate (ie. it was free). For those that believe in the spiritual importance of it, i see no justification for anything more…actually, you could even drop the certificate and save a couple of kronas without changing the meaning 🙂

    Big parties (like 21st birthdays etc) are optional, and the world doesn’t end if you don’t have one. kids and parents might just have to suck it up and go have some fun outside 🙂

  • Imogene February 25, 2010, 6:21 pm

    Neither. It’s about the presents. 😉

    Haha! It’s EXACTLY the same in Switzerland. Daughter decided NOT to get confirmed (sigh of relief from me), but we held a party when she turned sixteen and she still got the presents. 🙂

  • Silvia Planchett February 25, 2010, 7:51 pm

    Glad to hear that it is about the presents. The fact that it´s held in a place that supports the belief in the supernatural is also a real bummer and a waste of taxpayer’s money. It´s only a matter of time before folks will come to recognize that gods come and go but people and their ties are forever linked.

  • hildigunnur February 25, 2010, 8:40 pm

    It’s more peer pressure and not wanting to stick out than presents I’d say. (well, the mothers’ thing too I suppose). My middle one’s getting confirmed this year, she’s not religious and hasn’t been for years, I was trying to get her to do the borgaraleg ferming (a non religious humanist rite of passage) instead, promising presents and party and all but no, she wanted to do the church thing with her friends.

    We’re having a home party and all the food will be made by various family members, she already got her big present from us (a ‘cello – which she needs anyway) so it won’t be all that bad. Can absoulutely be done without being incredibly expensive.

  • Laurence February 25, 2010, 9:16 pm

    Sorry to disturb the confirmation discussion, but I think this is important. It appears that Zhu Min, a former Bank of China Ltd Executive VP, has been appointed as advisor to Strauss-Kahn at the IMF. This appointment comes shortly after China agreed to purchase 50 billion USD in IMF bonds! Now think about who is handing out the money to little ole Iceland….

    Full info here:

  • sigga February 25, 2010, 9:57 pm

    Like Halldór I was confirmed in Australia – and it was more of an expected thing within the family that I do this and I was happy to do it, actually had a wonderful time with the others (all older) who were being confirmed with me. Without an extended family all the Icelandic community in Perth were invited, it was low key, the cake party being at home and the presents surprised me. I had no idea that it would be a mini christmas for me. It wasn´t until I came to Iceland and saw photos from cousins confirmations with the piles of money that I realised that this right of passage meant different things to different people. I so do not feel sorry for anyone – scale down and remember why confirmation is there – it is a right of passage but in the traditional christian sense it is supposed to be a confirmation of belief. This may change as one grows older and more worldly wise but at the time it is a significant step. This is another reason why I have never understood the civil confirmation ceremonies that are available to the youth of Iceland.. Isn´t it perhaps time to change. Stop the greed at an earlier age.

  • Rik Hardy February 25, 2010, 10:56 pm

    Okay, so Icelanders have their own way of doing things, but Alda is right: It’s all about the presents. The fact that the country is largely Lutheran is pure coincidence. I was confirmed in Britain at a Danish Lutheran church, for which I wore an ordinary suit and received from the parents of one of the other kids getting confirmed a hand-made folder for keeping music in and a bible from the priest. That was it, folks. My parents hadn’t the slightest anxiety over the cost and the church provided the coffee and cakes afterwards. I seriously urge any parents who are having nervous breakdowns over this evil nightmare to form a large group and campaign vehemently for the common sense which used to reign here about 50 years ago.

  • idunn February 26, 2010, 10:31 pm

    Rites of passage are important, but needn’t cost a fortune. In fact if one is entering the adult world then supposedly able to make up their own mind, and how they go about it.

    One of my options would be springing for admittance for everyone to a public hot spring. Perhaps we could smuggle some champagne in. Another might be nothing more than a campfire out in the middle of nowhere, just nature and those few hardy souls determined enough to celebrate it.

    If this wouldn’t find favor with my fellows more interested in conforming, well so be it, as such passages are all about growing up.

  • James February 27, 2010, 4:03 am

    Capitalism converted most shared religious rituals into shared consumer rituals. So I take the view that people’s underlying need to conform isn’t the problem; I blame the cancerous meme of capitalism that exploits that need. But it’s interesting to consider how many Buddhist rituals haven’t yet been converted to consumer rituals; prioritise thinking over conformance and capitalism doesn’t get a look-in…