Civil confirmation is a secular alternative to religious confirmation. The Icelandic civil confirmation program consists of an 11 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 of the director of the course or President of Siðmennt
Some of the topics covered during the 11 week course are:
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
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 (August 2018) a total of 3,795 Icelandic teenagers have participated in Sidmennt’s civil confirmation and 45,500 guests have attended the ceremonies over the 30 years since it began. There are now second-generation kids in the program. This year, 470 teenagers participated in the annual civil confirmation program in many classes and 14 ceremonies were held in several parts of the country. The population of Iceland is only 350,000 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% consistently.
Siðmennt, the Icelandic Ethical Humanist Association was founded in 1990 by some of the families who 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.
past president of Siðmennt and director of the civil confirmation program