Everything you’ll know if you went to a religious primary school

First school lesson: Don’t fuck with your hymn book

Primary school, hey? What a time. A distant memory of sunshine, laughs and monkey bars. School trips to Go Ape and Sea World. Egg and spoon races and Show ‘n’ Tell. This is what most people think of when they remember their primary school. However, there’s another small group of people who spent their most formative years in a religious primary school. Whose memories were similar to the above, just with a whole load of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit thrown in.

I went to a Church of England primary school and a lot of my friends went to a Catholic school. We often reminisce over the weird traditions, wild religious events and excessive praying that we experienced as children but you know what? It’s time to get everyone involved.

Here’s everything you’ll know if you went to a religious primary school – if this was you then get ready to feel uncomfortably familiar, if not, this is some crazy-ass shit.

Firstly, your parents baptised you to ensure you’d get into this religious primary school

Sounds extreme? Yeah, don’t our baptised-baby-heads know it. Our parents moved into the area, saw that local Church of England school and thought “we need to convince that religious headteacher that we worship God just like the next guy, but how? A baptism of course!!”.

And now you’re baptised and there’s nothing you can do about it.

The Easter celebrations were the biggest events of the year

Our school memories of the time surrounding Easter weekend are so magical. It starts on Shrove Tuesday where we got a whole day off to make pancakes, then an ash cross put on our head, and then lay a load of paper palm leaves on the floor with your lent written on them.

The fun continues. There are lessons which are taken over by Easter egg decorating or singing practice for the Easter service or making Happy Easter cards with those tiny fluffy plastic chicks. There was basically no school for the 40 day and 40 nights, and although you had to commit to some hymn singing and an ashy forehead, it was all round a great time.

The nativity performance was significantly more important for us

There’s a lot of pressure on this performance – the nativity story is the whole reason your school came to be, it can’t go wrong. It happened every Christmas and it was the occasion that separated the cool children, from the not-so-cool. You and your best friend go for the role of Mary, she gets it, you get lamb three because your singing was “a bit wobbly”. Now your best mate’s the talk of the school and you’re just a loser.

You rehearse for weeks beforehand, your teachers lose their mind over making it perfect and then on the night everyone forgets their lines and one kid wets herself – you can’t beat it.

Singing adorable hymns about bouncing kangaroos

We had to sing hymns because it’s a religious school. However, they also need to keep it light and fun for us, so we praised God for kangaroos. I’m talking about the ‘If I Were a Butterfly’ song that had the line: “If I were a kangaroo, I know I’d jump right up to you”. The most memorable line because the whole school would add the jumping action that made everyone fully laugh out loud – it somehow never got old even though we did it every other week.

If your school had nuns, you were terrified of them

A lot of religious primary schools don’t go as far as housing nuns but if yours did, you’ll appreciate how scary they were. In reality, they were just God-serving old people minding their own business. However, for a young child whose only knowledge of nuns was that they were angry, mean and sometimes haunted – bumping into a nun on your way to Maths was fucking scary.

There was always that one student who swears they saw a nun’s ghosts wandering the school

If seeing a nun was scary, finding out one had died was a whole other story. The school would come together to pray and this was where you had your first experience with death. What follows this is that awful rumour that goes around that there’s a special graveyard behind the school where they’re all buried and someone’s sworn that if you stay late for homework club you see their spirits walking around.

You celebrated Harvest Festival by decorating a shoebox with old leaves and filling it with baked beans

Since primary school, I literally haven’t heard of Harvest Festival and when I mention it to my mates now, they have no idea what I’m talking about – it feels like a weird, distant dream.

But at religious primary schools, it was massive. You’d be out of lessons all day decorating shoeboxes with autumnal themes, filling them up with long-life food and taking them to the local care homes in the area.

The elderly people were so disinterested in our boxes full of dried pasta and tinned tomatoes, but as a 10-year-old doing the Lord’s work, it felt real good.

The frequent school trips to cathedrals

While other primary schools might have visited the Roald Dahl museum or the Natural History Museum, we went to various cathedrals across the country. You didn’t mind so much because you didn’t know anything else, and your seven-year-old brain really appreciated the cultural impact and the history of each religious house … NOT.

The monthly mass was hell

Some pretty traumatic memories still resonate from monthly mass. It was normally an hour of sitting, and then standing and singing in a hot room. Someone always fainted. The only fun that came from monthly mass was that you got to go up and eat a wafer circle – even though it tastes like air, it was the body of Christ and it was exciting.

Our morning prayers will stay with us for life

You either had a little bookmark with the Lord’s Prayer on it or you had it at the front on your school planner – to make sure you never forget and you didn’t ever forget, you still know it off by heart.

If you drop, step on or mistreat the hymn-books then you’re done

Those hymn-books hold a lot of value, naturally. However, if you accidentally drop them you can only hope God will save you. You get death stares from everyone, especially if any of the scary nuns see and sometimes a fucking detention. Their reaction was so extreme as if you’d just cursed God himself in the middle of assembly – we’re young children, we make mistakes!!!

Your one, very short sex education lesson meant nothing

Obviously primary school is only up to 11 or 12 years old so no one got taught how to put on a condom. However, at religious primary schools, it was completely pointless, a wasted 30-minutes of your life that you’ll never get back.

All we got was a short cartoon video of a man and woman kissing which then turned into a sperm swimming towards an egg. Other than that, it was a presentation of what periods are like (I went to an all-girls school) during which my teacher poured a tablespoon of water onto the floor and told us that’s all you bleed in a month (LIES). Then she let one of us put a tampon in a glass of water and watch it blow up – that was a hoot and a half.

Making Christingles for advent instead of eating chocolate like everyone else

For us, the start of advent wasn’t about opening the first window on your Cadbury’s calendar, instead, it was about transforming an orange into a candle – otherwise known as a Christingle. This activity consisted of your teacher helping you cut a hole in your designated orange, balancing a candle in it and then sticking in a load of toothpicks covered in sweets.

It wasn’t much fun, you didn’t get to cut the orange yourself or eat the sweets or light the candle – because we were kids and we “couldn’t be trusted with knives and matches” what a joke.

The carol service was lit

Evening events at primary school were so wild. For religious schools, the carol service was the best we got. School finished early, it was winter so it was dark and felt way past your bedtime, you got to put tinsel in your hair and take a bus to the church while you all ate your sandwich dinners together – how true friendships are formed. Then you and your class did a performance on the recorder, you looked out to the audience and saw your parents in the audience half asleep –  you felt like a star.

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