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Coming of Age


Confirmation is the formal recognition of a baptised individual’s commitment to the Christian faith. In both the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church only bishops can conduct confirmations.

General Considerations
There is no set age, but it is usual to be confirmed during the early teens. Individuals must have been baptised before they can be candidates for confirmation. All candidates will undergo preparation for confirmation. While the detail of this varies from parish to parish, the general purpose is to ensure that they have an understanding about life as a Christian within the family of the Church.

Confirmation may take place in the church that the candidate usually attends; it is also usual to be confirmed at a school church. Roman Catholic children will have made their First Holy Communion at a younger age before confirmation, whereas in the Church of England communion follows confirmation.

The Ceremony
Only very close friends or relations will be invited to witness the ceremony. In general confirmation is seen as a private affirmation of faith and an assertion of familial religious affiliations. It is not usually celebrated by a wider circle of friends and relations. In the Church of England, godparents would be expected to attend.

In the Catholic Church, the child, who is normally confirmed in his/her early teens, will also have a confirmation sponsor, who may be nearer the child’s age. This person must be a practising Catholic whose role is to keep an eye on the child’s religious life. The confirmation candidate will also choose an additional saint’s name, spoken by the bishop during the ceremony, but this will not become part of their official or legal names and in practice will rarely be used.

If you are invited to a confirmation, remember that it is primarily a religious ceremony. Dress conservatively and behave respectfully in church – do not whisper, switch off your mobile and do not take photographs.

Confirmation Presents
These are often of a religious nature and may be Bibles, or gold or silver crosses and chains. However, non-religious presents such as other books or cufflinks may be preferred.

Bar and Bat Mitzvahs

Bar mitzvahs and bat mitzvahs are Jewish coming-of-age ceremonies. They are the most important rites of passage in the Jewish faith. The ceremonies are held when a boy turns 13 (a bar mitzvah) and when a girl turns 12 (a bat mitzvah), however many ceremonies are now held at the age of 13. Ceremonies are held on the first Saturday (Shabbat) after the relevant birthday.

It is quite usual for the celebrations to spread out over the whole weekend, with a family gathering on a Friday evening, the ceremony on a Saturday and the party on a Sunday.

Formal invitations are sent out by the parents, inviting guests to the ceremony at the synagogue, and to attend the reception afterwards at their home or another venue. This may range from a celebratory meal to a lavish party. For example:

Joseph and Rachel Golden are delighted to invite you to celebrate the Bar Mitzvah of their son Simon who will read Maftir and Haftorah at 11 o’clock, on Saturday, 14 March 2015 The Central Synagogue, 36–40 Hallam Street, London W1 and afterwards for lunch at the Park Lane Hotel, London W1
The RSVP address is included in the bottom left corner and the dress code in the bottom right. Guests should respond with a handwritten reply. For less formal celebrations, invitations are often sent by email, note or postcard, or by word of mouth.

Dress Code
Men should wear a formal suit and skullcap (they will be distributed), women smart day dress (ensuring their arms are covered above the elbow and their legs above the knee) and a hat.

Guests should arrive at the synagogue on foot (many Jews do not drive during the day on Saturdays). Men and women will often be seated separately.

While there is often singing during the ceremony, some of the service involves standing in silence. Appropriate times to leave the room may be observed from the actions of the congregation. Guests give presents and they are sent in advance or taken to the post-ceremony celebrations, never the synagogue.

18ths and 21sts

Both 18ths and 21sts are seen as landmark birthdays for both sexes. It is advisable, therefore, to ‘choose’ between the two for large celebrations and more generous birthday presents.

Formal Birthday Parties
If a large formal event is planned, such as a marquee party or event in a hired venue, parents should check with their son or daughter that this is what they genuinely want, rather than using it as an excuse to indulge in celebrations they would like. They should pay careful attention to the wishes of their son or daughter to ensure the party is a success for everyone.

Themed or fancy-dress parties are a popular alternative to formal dress codes. A theme may be loosely and often wittily interpreted, while fancy-dress is a little more prescriptive and may even involve the hiring of a costume. Hosts should ensure guests are not too inconvenienced by the theme, and should always make an effort to dress up themselves.

The invitation should make it absolutely clear that this is a party to celebrate an 18th or 21st birthday – no guest should be taken by surprise. If there is a specific dress code, such as black tie, or a theme, this should be stated clearly on the invitation.

Party Planning
It is very common for a formal 18th or 21st party to be a mixed generation event, where contemporaries of the son or daughter are mixed with older relations, godparents and friends of their parents who have played a significant role in their lives.

The numbers should be carefully managed to ensure a balanced mix of older and younger guests. Make a decision with everyone involved as to whether to have mixed-generation tables. Food and music should have universal appeal; alternatively, communicate to the older generation that the party may be more orientated towards a younger audience as the night goes on.

It is usual to toast the boy or girl who is turning 18 or 21, and to have a speech by a parent (usually the father), godparent or elder sibling. Sometimes a close friend will also make a short speech.

Mark the occasion with a generous present, particularly if you are a godparent or close relation. Many adults treat the coming-of-age birthday as the last occasion on which they are expected to give a regular birthday present.

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