The Immaculate Conception and Other Lessons in Christianity (amidst a family adventure)

The Spanish are quite keen on holidays and fiestas and this past weekend was a double holiday of Constitution Day (December 6th) and the Immaculate Conception (December 8th), hence the long weekend which the Spaniards refer to as “el puente” (the bridge).  Constitution Day is in honor of Spain’s current constitution which was written up after the ruling of Franco in 1978-recognizing the solidarity and unity of Spain and all its regions and marking the end of a dictatorship.  The Immaculate Conception is the day when The Virgin Mary, herself, was conceived (not Jesus as many may think).  When she was conceived (the old biological way), she was immediately absolved of any original sin (that we are all born with apparently) by the merits of her future son as predicted by God.  Pretty impressive forethought.  This leads me to wonder, how, on earth, Mary was chosen.  Well, apparently, her dignity and humility while believing in her own goodness got God’s attention.  Ok, so rather than going on and on about my religious learnings in this very moment (thanks to Google), as someone who has grown up mostly agnostic, I kind of want to honor Mary, for just a moment, for her ability to be all that: have dignity, be humble, and believe in herself!  Wouldn’t it be nice?

To honor this double holiday weekend, the Brew Crew ventured out to visit the Spanish region of Galicia, mainly Santiago de Compostela, the capital of Galicia.  This is the land of cheese shaped like breasts, where the seafood is the best in Spain and where car rental business owners express hugs (“abrazos”) when saying farewell.  The Northwest region of Spain reminded us of our hometown, Seattle, with all the fog, mist, rain, evergreens and lots and lots of moss.  Quinton felt right at home as he commented, “ah, I love the mist!”  Our trip started off a little bumpy as George mistakenly rented a car in Santiago, Chili, but we recovered, jumped a taxi and located our fabulous Airbnb, blocks from the old town.

Santiago de Compostela and its cathedral, mark the traditional end of the pilgrimage of St. James, one of Jesus’ apostles who brought Christianity to the Iberian Peninsula.  The story goes that his remains are buried in the cathedral.  Today, people from all over make the same pilgrimage (Camino de Santiago) on foot or bicycle, for spiritual and personal growth.  Like most of the old towns we have visited in Europe, Santiago’s is ancient, charming and impressively preserved and I continue to be amazed at how safe I feel getting lost alone in all the dark and narrow streets.  After a day exploring the old town of Santiago, we rented a car for the day (in Spain, this time), drove out to the Atlantic coast and explored a series of fishing towns scattered with beautiful chapels and played on the beach.  As we pulled up to a short boardwalk that lead to big, crashing waves and a lighthouse in the distance, the kids let out a big sigh of relief and excitement and I was quickly reminded of how much the Brew Crew feels at home near the sea.  After some wading in the frigid waters, a few cartwheels on the beach and collecting some seashells, our excursion continued until we arrived in Finisterre, another “end of the earth,” as once believed by the Spaniards, where we watched the sunset on the dramatic rock cliffs of the famous lighthouse.  It is also where many hikers and bikers end their pilgrimage beyond Santiago and burn their clothes to signify purification and starting anew.

There is something about traveling together again as a family that feels strangely empowering.  Despite the emotional challenges of living with 3 teen/tweenagers, when we come together to face unfamiliar surroundings and to be presented with new situations to navigate together, we are forced to work as a team and to rely on each other in ways that we normally take for granted.  Believe me, it’s not all kittens and lollipops, but these experiences remind each of us, I think, that we have each other when everything else feels unpredictable and uncertain.



2 thoughts on “The Immaculate Conception and Other Lessons in Christianity (amidst a family adventure)

  1. Fantastic photos, Melissa and Brew Crew! Thanks for sharing your amazing travels with us. Hadley meeting her dinner is priceless. Winter bike to work day is tomorrow (Dec 11) so we are looking forward to extra breakfast helpings. Love to all from Aunt Joanie and Uncle Bill.


  2. Thank you ever so much for another wonderful post!
    Big hugs and lots of love from your Mumzer!
    I had coffee yesterday with my Discernment Woman and she told me lots about her Santiago Pilgrimage –
    she did the entire length of it!


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