Civil confirmation in Iceland

Civil confirmation is a secular alternative to religious confirmation. The Icelandic civil confirmation program consists of a 12 week educational program and ceremony for teenagers aged 13-14.

At the end of the course there is a festive cultural and musical ceremony where some of the kids perform by giving speeches, reading poetry, playing instruments, singing, dancing, doing stand-up or a sketch. In addition, a prominent member of Icelandic society gives a speech about what makes life meaningful, the importance of being honest and true to one’s values, and the right to be different. At the end of the one hour ceremony each teenager receives a diploma rolled up like a scroll and tied with a colorful ribbon. The English translation of the text on the diplomas is:


Civil confirmation (year)
It is hereby confirmed that (name of individual)                                          
has completed the Sidmennt civil confirmation course.
It is our hope that you will use the instruction and guidance that you have received to be a broad-minded person of great integrity. Welcome into the society of adulthood with all the responsibilities that go with it. 
Date and place,

On behalf of Siðmennt (Humanist logo)   Signature: Hope Knutsson
 

Some of the topics covered during the 12 week course are:

  • critical thinking
  • ethics
  • human relations
  • human rights
  • media literacy
  • skepticism
  • what it means to be an adult and take responsibility for your opinions and behavior
  • being a teenager in a consumer society
  • relations with parents
  • prejudice and multiculturalism
  • substance abuse
  • self-image
  • happiness
  • the meaning of life
  • respecting the environment

Short video clips from our confirmations in recent years are on our website.  http://sidmennt.is/ferming/kynningarefni/

At the time of writing this (June 2016) a total of 2,947 Icelandic teenagers have participated in Sidmennt’s civil confirmation and 36,500 guests have attended the ceremonies over the 28 years since it began. There are now second-generation kids in the program. For each of the past 3 years, more than 300 teenagers have participated in the annual civil confirmation program. In 2016 there were 340 enrolled in 13 classes and 10 ceremonies were held in several parts of the country. The population of Iceland is only 330,000 people.

Sidmennt has provided an important secular alternative coming-of-age program for Icelanders. The program has grown enormously over the years and spread to other parts of the country than the capital area. In the last years, Sidmennt has surveyed the participants about their satisfaction with the secular course and ceremony. The level of satisfaction has been 97% on average.

Siðmennt, the Icelandic Ethical Humanist Association was founded in 1990 by some of the families that participated in the first civil confirmation program and now offers secular baby-namings, weddings and funerals conducted by trained celebrants. The first civil confirmation ceremony in Iceland was conducted in 1989.