In 1736, the confirmation was required by law in Norway. It was a legal necessity to gain ‘the rights of adulthood’: You could not enter the military service, get married, be a godparent or testify in court without a confirmation certificate. If you had not signed up for confirmation by the age of 19 years, you could be punished with prison or even the pillory. Whoever failed the public examination in the church was expelled and had to graduate again next year.
Confirmation was enforced until 1912. Then the graduation became voluntary, and all penalty provisions were canceled.
Today, Norwegian confirmation graduates are 15 years old. Since 1981, confirmation in the Norwegian Church has been regarded as a prayer where God confirm the promises given in baptism. Historically, the confirmation in the Norwegian Church has had a double character. The ritual not only serves as an official confirmation of baptismal grace, but also that the candidates for confirmation were both objects of God’s confirmation and subject to his or hers personal confirmation that they will live in the baptismal covenant.
In some countries the graduation takes place without any theological affiliation. One interpretation in Norway was that the confirmation marked the transition from childhood to adulthood which was connected to the high school graduation. The confirmation ritual in Norway was also a prerequisite not only for marriage, but also for engagement or employment as an apprentice.
The concept of confirmation is also used by non-Christian organizations. A number of secular organizations, mostly modern Humanist organizations, organize confirmations as an expression of their life choices. Humanistic confirmations take the basis of a non-religious, secular world view, and intend to support and strengthen the graduates (the word ‘confirmation’ can also mean ‘support’ and ‘strength’), while making a symbolic celebration of the transition from child to adult. Humanistic graduation consists of several courses and a graduation ceremony. The courses tutor the candidates in human rights, identity, family life, responsibility for the world, religion and humanism, world religions, and more. The final graduation takes place in town halls or a cultural center, and typically includes a solemn procession, speeches, cultural entertainment and receiving diplomas.
In 2006, the Norwegian Holistic Association conducted their first holistic confirmation. It contains a series of weekly evening classes with regular supervisors supplemented by guest lecturers. The course ends with a small ceremony out in the woods. The actual graduation happens through a formal ceremony in a traditional manner with the participation of family and friends. The Norwegian Social Humanists created an Academic confirmation in 2006. It is a non-religious organization with an academic and scientific focus. The organizers are trying to adapt the teaching so that young people who follow another confirmation instruction may also follow this. The purpose of the course is to introduce the candidates to scientific research and to give them an idea of the academic significance. The academic staff and students at the University of Oslo are responsible for teaching and group work.
Most graduates end their celebration day with family dinner, speeches and gifts in their respective homes.
The first two photos show a traditional Norwegian church ceremony, and the third photo shows a humanistic graduation.
Text modified by: Anette Broteng Christiansen, ThorNews
Photos: On top: Kirken.no, Middle: Berlevaagnytt.com, On the bottom: Vårt land