In the early elementary community I guided, the children had an altar for some years, which had evolved organically from Los Dias de los Muertos celebrations. A child brought in a carved olive wood Madonna figure that his mother had brought back from a business trip to Israel. We discussed its significance and the children did some research. They made a place to display it. Another child brought a brass image of Savarswarti that his mother had brought back from her retreat in India. The children researched and discussed her significance, adding her to the altar.

Children began bringing in their families’ symbols to add – guardian angel, Buddha, pentagram, Star of David, etc. They organized a Buddha Baby’s birthday. The children burned the past year’s blessed palm and made ashes. They put crosses on one another’s foreheads saying, “Remember that thou art dust and unto dust thou shalt return.” We studied the many ways of honoring the full life cycle from conception through death. Always the children did research on the cultures, the countries, the religions. It was different over the years.

Sometimes the children brought in a parent to present on a ritual. Once the children from another community prepared a Posada and presented it around the campus. Once a community built a harvest house for Sukkot. Sometimes children held ceremonial burials for creatures, incorporating elements they had learned or invented. Sometimes they carried out weeks of scientific observation of a creature’s decomposition. Sometimes children organized a going out to the Hindu temple.

Only a couple of times did we have to overcome the reactions to participating in the rituals of others by the few more fundamentalist atheist or religious families. We thought and felt our way through the challenges. We all came to think of the children’s activities as if they were playing characters in plays and the ritual objects as props in the sets of a drama – all a part of becoming more and more knowledgeable, tolerant, and compassionate citizens of the world.