History and Symbolism of Confirmation:
Most Christian beliefs practice Confirmation. Baptists are an exception, as they feel that the ceremony of baptism also includes the Confirmation element of a believer's faith. Christian Confirmation is meant to 'confirm' and strengthen the relationship a believer has with God. Catholics are generally Confirmed during their early teens. It is seen as a major step in their spiritual growth.
Many Christian religions, however, view Confirmation with less importance. It is looked upon as a personal choice, not necessarily an essential part of a believer's spiritual progression. Confirmation gives Christians the opportunity to re-establish their commitment to God. Their godparents do this for them when they are Christened. Confirmation allows them to make the commitment themselves when they are old enough to do so.
In the Bible, the apostles laid hands on the heads of Christians. At the same time they prayed that the Christian would receive the Holy Spirit. Other church leaders have done the same throughout history and within different Christian religions. 'The laying on of hands' still goes on today during Christian Confirmation ceremonies. A religious leader, usually a Bishop, lays their hands on the head of the Confirmation candidate.
Before the Confirmation Ceremony:
Confirmation candidates attend Confirmation classes in the period leading up to the ceremony. Here they receive tuition on the important Christian beliefs. They are also taught what the Holy Communion Service means. Christians do not receive Holy Communion (where they 'drink' and 'eat' the symbolic 'blood' and 'body' of Christ in the form of wine and bread) until they have been Confirmed.
Christians who were not baptized, or Christened, can be baptized, or Christened, at the same time (or just before) Confirmation. Baptism, or Christening, ceremonies vary depending on the denomination of the Christian religion, but it's symbolism is basically the same.
Confirmation candidates choose a Confirmation sponsor to help them through the process of Confirmation. This sponsor helps them prepare for Confirmation and offers support during the Confirmation ceremony itself.
The Confirmation Ceremony:
For the Confirmation ceremony itself the candidates (usually from several churches) gather in one place. Friends and family join them in support and to help them celebrate. The Bishop explains how the Holy Spirit enables Christians to follow God's will. Some of the Confirmation candidates may explain their belief and why they want to be Confirmed. This part of the ceremony is call a 'testimony.'
The Bishop will ask the candidates if they have already been baptized. Then he will ask them whether they believe in Jesus and if they will try to live how He wants them to. Then each candidate receives the laying on of the Bishop's hands and is Confirmed with the words of a special blessing.
Catholic Bishops draw a symbolic cross on the Confirmation candidate's forehead. They do this with oil of chrism. Occasionally an Anglican Bishop does the same. This symbolic ritual is used in baptism also. The cross signifies that the person as being a child of God.
The Bishop ends the service by praying for God to help and bless all the attendees. Confirmation is celebrated by the newly Confirmed candidate's family and friends as they have promised to follow Christ and are now adult members of their church.