Confirmation in Norway – from childhood to adulthood

The Norwegian confirmation is an important event, marking the transition from childhood to adulthood. It is also arguably one of the most important days in a Norwegians life.

Confirmation is often considered a Christian transition ceremony. In Norway it also is a known as a ritual when it comes to entering adulthood. In the olden days you could start an adult life with privileges like moving from your childhood home, get a job and also drink alcohol.

In Norway a Christian confirmation was required by law between 1736 and up until 1912. 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. Whoever failed the public examination in the church was expelled and had to graduate again next year. And perhaps even worse, if you had not signed up for confirmation by the age of 19 years, you could be punished with prison or even the pillory.

These days the ritual has become more a symbol and although it now is voluntarily, and also the fact that an alternative civil confirmation was introduced in 1951, the traditional christian confirmation is still popular. The ritual, which is an official confirmation of baptismal grace, is conducted by a vicar who will say a prayer for the candidate and give his or hers blessing. And it all takes place the year you turn 15.

But the preparations starts at least a year in advance; with registering the confirmation with a church, the booking of a venue, deciding on catering and last but not least, buy ‘bunad’ the Norwegian traditional costume. It’s the tradition that a bunad is given as a gift for the confirmation. Usually the bunad will be worn for the confirmation, so it needs to be ready in advance. It takes between 1-2 years to make (with lots of embroidery, all made by hand) by professional bunad seamstresses.

As we are living in London and all our family is in Norway we decided that our daughter would to the confirmation lessons (for a year, in the lead up to the big day) in the Norwegian church in London. The confirmation service would take place in Norway, in our local church there.

Then the bunad was ordered at Bunadsstua in Krødsherad, Norway. This is our local bunad seamstress that specialise in the regions special embroidery, cut and fabrics of the Sigdalsbunad. The tradition you see is that you will have a traditional costume from the home place of your family.

Our firstborn was confirmed on a sunny day in Norway on the 5th of May 2016. The service took place in Vatnås kirke, a tiny ‘stavkirke’ which is an old wooden church, originating back to the 16th century. Family and friends attended the confirmation church ceremony – before we all gathered in the venue of an old historical building close by.

There was a dinner buffet followed by another tradition; a plentiful selection of cakes. If you have been to any celebration in Norway you will already know that the selection of cakes, all home made, is a rather impressive affair and as much a feast for the eyes as it is for the taste buds.

The celebratory meal also includes several speeches; held by the main person who thanks everyone for being there, the parents gives words of wisdom, followed by more well wishes from godparents, grandparents, siblings and so on.

For the confirmation it’s also common to give a gift; traditional jewellery called ‘sølje’ which is for the bunad or money. Traditionally these gift were tokens support and contribute to the youngsters transition into adult life.

The confirmation is arguably one of the most important life events in Norway, were the focus is on the individual, who’s being confirmed. It’s a very special occasion – and you should feel honoured if you are being invited to one.

Here are a few photos from our daughters confirmation, that took place a year ago in Norway.

© Little Scandinavian

If you have any questions regarding a Norwegian confirmation, please ask by leaving a comment below. Meanwhile, we will soon be planning for our next one, for our youngest daughters confirmation that will take place in the Spring of 2020.

28 thoughts on “Confirmation in Norway – from childhood to adulthood

  1. Thanks for some wonderful information. Being a couple generations disconnected from the Norwegian part of my heritage, I was searching the web to discover the significance, if any, of the 15th birthday in Norway. The question arose as one of the few family heritage items left here is an ornate carved wooden jewelry box that was apparently given to my great-grandmother on her 15th birthday, as evidenced by her name and the date as carved in the box. Fascinating, as it was a year before her marriage and emigration to Minnesota, US.
    I’m grateful to understand some information that I doubt my late Mother, who was named after her and received the box as a result, ever knew.

  2. Hello 🙂
    I am doing an assignment for my psychology class where I choose a cultural ceremony and explain its importance etc. I would love it if you could give me more information on why it was started, and what it has to do with the developmental side of a person. I am from Norwegian descent, but have been raised in America, so I haven’t been able to participate in the Norwegian traditions. Thank you!

  3. Dear Alberto.

    I will indeed follow up with a post on this matter. But for now, congratulations on being chosen as god parents. It’s a great honour and it means the parent(s) regard you as someone they want in their child’s life, as an extra guardian, supporter and influential person. I don’t think there should be any need to worry about what this task implies. The parent(s) expectations, as you are not familiar with Norwegian tradition and religion nor are you locally based shouldn’t be too high. But as a minimum, cards and gifts for birthdays and Christmas, at least until 18 years of age. Added bonus if you remember milestones such as first day in nursery/school etc. Show an interest and form a relationship, similar to an uncle and aunt. When the child is turning 15 you may be invited to the confirmation, where you should do a speech to your godchild. The traditional task of a god parent was once to religiously educate the child. However this would be seen as a rarity nowadays.

    Best of luck!

    Best wishes, Bianca x

  4. Dear all,
    my wife and I have been chosen recently to be godparents of our Norwegian friends’ future child (at the moment we don’t know if male or female). We are honoured to be chosen for this task and to be honest we are also moved, however we are Italians living in the UK and we don’t know what kind of duties this will imply or what the family is expecting from us. We are going to take this very seriously, for this reason any advice will be very helpful.

    Many thanks

  5. Hi Josh. In short, absolutely! A celebration at home is no lesser option. If you are a bit creative and nifty you will easily be able to transform your home into the perfect setting for your children’s big day. Food could be easily solved with a large stew served together with plenty of freshly baked bread and tasty butter. Or do a buffet, where you might even would ask guests to bring a dish. In fact it is a custom that some of the guests would bake and bring a cake anyway. Cut costs for outfits by 1) using something that you already own 2) buy something smart on the high street 3) source the perfect attire in a vintage shop or 4) make it easy and hire the outfit. There is no need to feel it has to be a bunad! Gifts are usually where some will go overboard in terms of money spending. Again, no need. It’s the thought that counts. Find a keep sake, a piece of jewellery a nicely framed family photo etc and pass it on. A well prepared speech can make a difference too. To conclude, to create the perfect day for your ‘konfirmant’ there is no need to break the bank. Please let me know how you get on! Best, Bianca x

  6. I was just wondering if there are any less expensive options for Confirmation? My kids are getting close to that age and it’s all a little overwhelming with the expenses for outfit, booking a hall, the food, etc. Do people ever have smaller celebrations at their house for example? Thanks for any advice!

  7. Dear Gary. How unfortunate that you will not be able to go! I would still recommend a more personal gift, perhaps relating to your family history, to reflect your sons heritage. A book, a photo or something else you might want to pass on as a token to say welcome to ‘adulthood’ which is part of the Norwegian confirmation tradition. Of course, card and money is fine too. I would say the amount varies widely, an no gift is too small. Parents tend to give anything from NOK500 – NOK2000 – with some giving a lot more. Hope this helps! Hope your son will have a fantastic day! Best, Bianca

  8. Hi Cara. How lovely that you will get to attend a Norwegian confirmation. I would suggest a card with small piece of jewellery, a thoughtful hardcover book or money. The amount would be depending on how close you are, but take into consideration that you are travelling too. Most families would consider that as a gift in itself. Wishing you a lovely trip to Norway! Best, Bianca x

  9. Lovely article and looks like it was a beautiful celebration! My daughter and I have been invited to her cousins confirmation this year in Asker, Norway. We are American and have never been to this type of ceremony before. What is appropriate to bring as a gift?

  10. Hello, I am from the U.S but I have a son in Norway. His confirmation is coming up in September, the unfortunate thing is that I can’t go because of health issue. What would be the appropriate amount of money for a gift? Thanks in advance.

  11. Dear Cathy. A small piece of jewellery or a nice book would be very suitable as well. Best, Bianca

  12. Dear Urooj. A card as well as money is appropriate – or a small piece of jewellery or a nice book. Best, Bianca

  13. Dear Ingrid. Nidarosdomen is one of the most beautiful churches in Norway. I would say yes to suit and yes to a lovely dress, preferably knee lenght or longer, a bolero and hat if you want to. A card and 400NOK is perfectly fine as a gift. A book would have been fine too. In fact I don’t think much would be expected when you are travelling there as well. Hope you and your father will enjoy Trondheim and the confirmation. Best, Bianca

  14. Hei, My father and I are headed to Norway in May (First time)and are attending a confirmation for a girl. It takes place at the Nidaros Domen in Trondheim. Should my father wear a suit? It looks like i will need a nice dress? Is 400nok okay to give?
    Thank you!

  15. Hi,

    A friends daughter is having the confirmation ceremony and I would like to give a gift to the girl. Any idea what I can give?

  16. Would you help me with gifts for a girl who will soon be confirmed. I know money is one of the options

  17. honestly, I just got confirmed the best gift is to just give them some money. The reason for that is because they can then choose what they want to buy

  18. Hello, are you well versed in Norwegian rituals in the late 1800’s?

    I am writing a story that requires some history.

  19. Hi Julie. A confirmation is a day time event, so a a smart dress sounds like a good plan! I hope you will have a wonderful time with the celebration of the “konfirmant”. Best, Bianca

  20. What is an appropriate outfit to wear? We will be attending a confirmation in may and visiting norway for our first time!

  21. Hi, what style of outfit would you recommend for an English aunty & godmother attending my nephews confirmation in Bergen in May ?
    Thank you.

  22. Dear Sara. Most people will give money. Amount depends on how close relation you have to the boy. From 200kr (neighbour etc) to 2000kr (the godparents). For a nephew I’d say between 500-1000kr. If you are not too keen on giving money there’s also other gift options. A confirmation is not like a birthday or Christmas, it only happens once, to mark the transition to adult life. A timeless good quality gift would be much appreciated too. Such as cuff links, leather belt, leather card holder, classic RayBan wayfarer sunglasses, laptop bag etc. In Norway it’s also popular to give quality outdoor gear for hiking and sports, such as tent, outdoor kitchen equipment etc. Hope this helps and that you will enjoy the party in Norway! Best, Bianca x

  23. My nephew is being confirmed in September & I wondered what would be appropriate for a 15 year old boy. Thank you

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