Every fall, our chapter hosts a gathering of pilgrims as a “welcome home” celebration, complete with a potluck, special presentation, and pilgrims’ story hour. It’s a nice way for pilgrims to mingle and share stories among those who can relate. Let’s face it, some of our friends and family won’t ever understand the appeal of the Camino. That’s okay, because we have our own special Pilgrims’ Thanksgiving, minus the turkey and the drama!
We Americans like turkey on Thanksgiving, but pilgrims love jamón serrano on potluck day! Bryan Winter brought us right back to Spain with this jamón, sliced to perfection! Bravo!
Pro tip: you can purchase a Jamón Serrano at Costco or Amazon.com.
NorCal pilgrims love bringing Spanish tapas, tarta de Santiago, and vino to potlucks, along with the traditional potluck fare.
Kenny, Laurin, and Emilio enjoyed catching up.
The feedback from our previous surveys showed that story sharing is the favorite aspect of this event. This year, we scheduled this activity before lunch so that people can introduce themselves as they share their story. And instead of coaxing the stories out table-by-table, pilgrims lined up for their chance to speak at the microphone. Even the shyest pilgrims participated! We enjoyed listening to each pilgrim’s heartfelt, personal, and at times, hilarious story. It is clear that people are grateful for this Camino thing. Despite the three-minute time limit each person had, we ran overtime, so I wasn’t able to share my story, but see below! *
Guy Joaquin kicked off the event with opening remarks.
More friendships were sparked in the potluck line and during lunch, as well as in the group photos and hospitalero presentation that followed. I believe this story-sharing tradition is as essential a ritual as the shell blessing for departing pilgrims that we host each spring. If your local community doesn’t already have a welcome home event, start small at a café or someone’s home. Perhaps next year you can find a larger venue such as a park, church, library, community center, or restaurant. Don’t let your Caminos pass by without honoring and celebrating them with your fellow pilgrims.
Below is a 3.5-minute video of event highlights.
Below are a few more photos of the event from my NorCal chapter friends Merula Furtado, Guy Joaquin, and me.
Just like in our 2017 and 2018 welcome home events, we ended our welcome home gathering with a recitation of the poem, Caminante by Antonio Machado, in both Spanish and English.
by Antonio Machado
Caminante, son tus huellas
el camino, y nada más;
caminante, no hay camino,
se hace camino al andar.
Al andar se hace camino,
y al volver la vista atrás
se ve la senda que nunca
se ha de pisar.
Caminante, no hay camino,
sino estelas en la mar.
Pilgrim, your footsteps are
the camino, and nothing more;
Pilgrim, there is no camino,
the camino is made by walking.
By walking you make the camino,
and in glancing back
you see the path
you will never walk again.
Pilgrim, there is no camino,
only waves on the sea.
* Thanks to everyone who participated in making it such a wonderful event.
I was so busy behind the scenes that I didn’t have a chance to share my story, so here goes: In May 2019, I walked the Camino Invierno from Ponferrada, a less-trodden alternative to the Camino Francés. I was a curiosity as a woman walking alone—some stages are very long and lack traditional pilgrim services. I didn’t see another pilgrim until the third day! I met more locals, spoke more Spanish, and had more time to work things out in my mind. It tested my fortitude in many ways, but was exactly what I needed. The kindness of strangers is what I remember most from this Camino. Strangers that became my Camino Family. I am thankful for each step along the Winter Way.
If you need more guidance returning from the Camino, check out the video presentation, Returning Home: The Journey Continues from the 2018 welcome home event.
I wish everyone a wonderful Thanksgiving and safe travels, wherever you may be!
PS: Artists, writers, crafters, and creatives: I plan to publish my annual Camino-Inspired Gifts for the Holidays soon. I’m a little delayed, but there’s still time if you’d like to submit something created in the last year, email me at Laurie@caminoprovides.com. Please include a brief blurb, price, one image, and a link for more details. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, see last year’s post.
I look forward to seeing what you all have created this year, and sharing the Camino love! ❤️