Norwegian teenagers going through the rite of passage known as konfirmasjon (confirmation) have been caught boasting about all the money they’re given in gifts. Their claims on social media, often accompanied by photos showing them fingering lots of cash, paint an unflattering picture of greed and anything but the maturity confirmation is literally supposed to confirm.
“I got 87,500 kroner (nearly USD 11,000), will buy myself a small motorcycle,” wrote one 16-year-old on a website catering to youth in Norway, ung.no. Another wrote that he received NOK 64,000 in cash gifts, while another claimed “I just had confirmation, knew I’d get a bit (of cash), yeah. I got around 107,000 kroner.”
There was a time when Norwegian teenagers were happy with knives and electric shavers for the boys and jewelry, family heirlooms and especially the much more lavish gift of a national costume known as a bunad, often from parents and grandparents. Now cash dominates their wish lists, and the more the better.
Norwegian banks confirm that those wishes are often fulfilled. A survey conducted by research firm TNS for Nordea Bank showed that a confirmation party costs parents an average of NOK 36,500 this year. Norway’s biggest bank, DNB, reports numbers showing that teenagers celebrating either church or non-religious confirmations now receive an average of NOK 52,000 in cash gifts each (USD 6,500).
Reflection of Norway’s new affluence
While some find the numbers shocking, others contend the cash gifts merely reflect economic development in Norway. Anita Borch, who has done research on gift-giving at Christmas, claims “material gifts are out” and that cash can also be more environmentally friendly.
“We live in a society where many people express much of their identity through things, and we don’t want to use things or have things that we don’t feel express ourselves as a person,” Borch told state broadcaster NRK this week. “We used to give a lot of gifts that were never used. Today we buy things when we have a need for them, and the barrier has been raised for when we want them. The chances for giving a gift that’s really appreciated are low, so cash gifts can be viewed as an environmentally friendly solution to the problem.”
She also claims cash gifts are not impersonal: “It marks a transition from being a child to being grown-up, and recognizes that the konfirmant (the person being confirmed) is big enough to decide how he or she wants to use the money.”
Highlights social differences
Showing off wads of cash can suggest otherwise, and it also can hurt or exclude those who didn’t receive as much. “I received more than 20,000 kroner, a nice suit, shoes, a shirt and some small gifts,” wrote one young man. “I thought that was quite a lot, but then I hear later at school that some got 45,000, 68,000 and even 120,000 kroner. The lowest amount I heard was 22,000 kroner, and then one guy in the class began to laugh.”
One girl wrote that “I don’t feel poor, but just kind of bad that my family has less money.” Another boy agreed: “For example if your friend gets 100,000 and you get 10,000, you feel kind of let down.”
Those who show off their new-found funds put more social pressure on other youth, warns Kaja Hegg of Norway’s chapter of Save the Children (Redd Barna), which is usually more concerned with saving children in real need of help from war, poverty or hunger. She urges parents to talk with their teenagers, both about how to conduct themselves and how to handle social differences.
“It’s a stress factor that we must teach our children to handle better,” Hegg told NRK. “It’s important to prevent it, by talking about the values you want to promote.”