Riding to Church for Confirmation


Riding to Church for Confirmation

Watch this audio slideshow of an unusual coming-of-age ceremony in Iceland. Iceland has a Lutheran state church and most Icelanders are Christian. The year children turn 14, they confirm their faith in God in a special religious coming-of-age ceremony. Young Súsanna Katarína opted for a “different and fun” confirmation style and went riding to church.

Narration by Eygló Svala Arnarsdóttir. Photos from Sif’s confirmation by Hulda Sveinsdóttir and Morten Feldskov Jannerup, photos from Súsanna Katarína’s confirmation by Bjarni Sv. Gudmundsson.

Click here to download the slideshow.


In 2008, Iceland Review Online presented a traditional Icelandic confirmation to readers with a slideshow of 14-year-old Sif, who was confirmed in Akureyri at Easter that year.

Iceland has a Lutheran state church and most Icelanders are Christian. Children are usually baptized a few months after they are born and the year they turn 14, they confirm their faith in God in a special religious ceremony.

Spring is the season for confirmation with the religious holidays during Easter, such as Maundy Thursday and Palm Sunday, being popular dates.

Others choose to be confirmed at Whitsun, or Pentecost, which is celebrated 50 days after Easter Sunday, or any weekend between the two holidays.

Young Súsanna Katarína opted for an unusual confirmation style.

Being a horse-lover, she rode bareback with a whole party of riders from Mosfellsbaer, where she lives, to the church Mosfellskirkja—a 30-minute ride into Mosfellsdalur valley.

This trip is called kirkjureid (“church ride”) and is undertaken by the members of the horseback riding club Hördur every year, although usually they just go to mass.

However, this spring, on May 9, they rode to church to witness Súsanna Katarína’s confirmation.

When Súsanna Katarína was nine, she watched how one participant in the kirkjureid chose to be confirmed during mass and thought it was so cool that she decided she would do the same when she came of age.

Her mother accompanied her on horseback to the church, while other family members met her there. Then Súsanna Katarína covered her lopapeysa sweater with the customary white robe, said her vows and danced down the aisle in pure joy.

Her loyal steed Rödull was brought back to his stable on a horse carriage while the confirmation child was given a ride back to the Hördur community center, where the confirmation was celebrated with coffee and cakes.

Then the confirmation child played the piano to entertain her party guests and told them the story of the costume she was wearing.

Súsanna Katarína wore the Icelandic national costume, which her grandmother had made. She had actually begun making it for her daughter when she was 13, but gave up on it.

When Súsanna Katarína saw the half-made costume, she requested that her grandmother finish it for her confirmation and she did. Other family members also attended the party in their national costumes.

With horsemanship constantly growing in popularity in Iceland, Súsanna Katarína may very well have started a new trend. Next year, perhaps other confirmation children will do something “different and fun” for their coming-of-age ceremonies as well.

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