Confirmation is a sacrament recognized by many different Christan denominaztions, including, Anglican, Lutheran (Reformed), Orthodox Christians. Generally speaking, Pro\testants especially Lutherans, place more emphasis on Confirmation than Catholics. This thus asffects individual country practices. We have begun to collect some information on confirmations in different countries. Generally speaking we note that Catholics seem to give more emphasis to First Communion and Protestants to Conformation. We also seem to note differences among countries and over time. We have some information on experiences or observations of confirmation in several countries.
We note a lot of images of American boys doing First Communion in the early 20th century, but we have very little information about the 19th century. We note boys doing First Communion, often but not always dressed in white. Often they wear blouses rather than suits. We also notice some what older boys dressed in dark suits, presumably they are doing their confirmation. An example of a Catholic comformation about 1913 is Harold Crown. The avaiable portraits do not always indicate if the boys were Catholic or Protestant. We know at least some were Catholic because they are with younger boys doing First Communion. Details as to the age and nature of these ceremonies are not readily apparent. After Wotld War I, these confirmation portaits become less common, although we continue to note many First Communion images. Here I am not sure what the relative availability of photographic portraits means. We note an American confirmation in 1960. One American contributor to HBC recalls a rather touching confirmation suit his mother made for him because they did not have money for a new store-bought suit. This account also includes a great deal of useful information about the 1970s
Austrian children when they are about 13 years old do their Confirmations. Austria is mostkly Catholic. In mosrt countries the most important event for Catholic children in First Communion while Lutherans place more emphasis on Confirmation. Lutherans tend to see age 7-8 years when Catholic children do their First Communion as to toung for any one to make a serious religious commitment. The age of 13 is seen as the approximate age at which a young person is capable of serious thought. Confirmation is not always done at age 13 years, hiwever, this is the most commom age. Confirmation became so important in northern Germany because of the large Lutheran that Catholics began giving it more emphasis. There are not very many Lutherans in Austria, but the country is strongly influenced by trends in Germny. Thus many Catholic childer at age 13 years do confirmations. The number of First Communions and Confirmations is about the same in Austria. We do not knopw much about the actual service. Tradutionally the youths involved receive a new suit or dress. The boys usually wear dark formal suits. Unlike the younger First Communion children, the girls do not wear white junior wedding dresses.
Boys at a Catholic school in France took their confirmation or renewal in immaculate white sailor suits. I'm not sure how common this was in the rest of Europe, but sailor suits wee also worn in Spain, at least for First Communion.
Germany is a predominatly Protestant country, but there are large mumbers of Catholics, especially in the south. Thus there are both Protestant and Cathholic confirmations. These used to be very important events in a boy's life. Some German boys for their confirmaton wear folk costumes. Many German children are confirmed, either in the evangelical or catholic church. It is a big day for them. Baden was in the German Federal Republic (West Germany). Religion is today less an influence in Germany than is the past. Church attendance, for example, is far below American trends. Thus conformation is a less important event than has been the case in the past. In the former DDR (Communist East Germany) many boys and girls who do not belong to any church also are expressing a desire to have some sort of an inauguration nowadays (Jugendweihe). Interestingly the NAZIs were condidering some sort of non religious ceremony replacing confirmation as they hoped to eventually phase out Christanity from German life.
An Irish controbutor to HBC recalls at 11 years old in 1962 wearing a green short pants suit, with fawn socks, and brown shoes. Other boys wore a school uniform which was a black blaser, grey shorts, and long grey socks. After confirmatiin he wore the suit on Sundays and special occasions. The following year as the shorts became to short they became every day wear.
We have little information about Dutch confirmation. It was a very inmportant step in a boys life as late as the early 20th century. The boys in the available images look like older teenagers. Parents would normally send post cards to family and friends on the occassion of a boy's confirmation. This image is undated, but we believe would have been sent about 1920. Today religion is a much less important part of Dutch life.
First Communion is very important in Poland. The country is perhaps the most Catholic country in Europe. As such the ceremony is watershed event in the life of Catholic children. We don't yet have much historical information on First Communion in Poland. The chidren seem to celebrate Firt Communion at about 7-9 years of age. We suspect that at one time that instruction was given in the schools, but this may have varied as Poland until 1918 was split among Austria, Prussia/Germany and Russia. Then during World War II Poland was controlled by the NAZIs and Soviet. After World War II, the Communist Government launched upon an athiest campaign and prevented Church activities in the schools. We are not sure what has occurred in Polish schools since the fall of Communism. The Church's view is that First Communion aims primarily to prepare a child for religious experience, and everything associated with the event should enhance this experience rather than detract from it. Through these difficult times, First Communion has contunued to be important in Poland. Many believe that all the external aspects of the event have come to overshadow the religious essence of the occasion. First Communion has become an expensive undertaking in Poland today. Parents buy expensive lace dresses for girls and velvet suits for boys. Other expenses include a lavish reception and party as well as contributions to churches and priests for officiating and flowers. Godparents are expected to come up with expensive gifts for the children. Often this attract's the children's focus to the detriment of the religious experiebnce. Entrepreneurs have persued financial opportunities. Many families purchase engraved invitations, specual hotograph albums, commemorative Bible editions. Stores hold First Communion fashion shows. Restaurants cater First Communion parties. First Communion has become an opportunity for people to show case their rising social status and affluence. Gifts in particular have become ncreasingly expensive. Lavish parties are also becoming increasingly common. One Polish ckeric writes, 'Of course, this special moment in a child's life requires some celebration, but what is happening is a grave distortion. The entire cultural aspect of this event for the family tends in a dangerous direction and has little to do with the religious ceremony itself."
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