Mi Familia es Sagrada

Our holiday Walkabout in Barcelona, Spain 

Christmas tree in Placa de Sol, Madrid, Spain.

Christmas tree in Placa de Sol, Madrid, Spain.

When my kids became adults, Christmas changed. 

Brightly wrapped presents, the anticipation of Santa, singing “Jingle Bells”, and the hope of getting that “Red Ryder 200-Shot, Range- Model Air Rifle”, just aren’t the same.  

This Christmas, we re-defined the holiday season for our family. 

Christmas 2016 - Clovis, California

Last Christmas, while unwrapping our presents, my always-travel-ready husband presented our family with a proposition. 

“What do you guys think about going on a trip next Christmas?” 

“Where could we go?” “What would we do?” Their busy Millennial brains were chewing on it. “Could we do that? Actually, leave home for Christmas?”  One of our family holiday traditions is watching  Rick Steve’s’ “Christmas in Europe”.  Germany, France, Italy, Croatia, Europe in the winter? It sounded cold. But, if Rick could do it, so could we. “Let’s break with routine and travel to a place with a different Christmas culture. Airfare, lodging and meals together, will be our present to you." 

A Whelan Family Holiday Walkabout was put in motion. 

One Year Later - Barcelona, Spain 

The first week of December, Keith and I took our super-discounted Level Airline’s flight to Spain. We wanted additional time to explore Madrid, Valencia, and Deltebre. Immediately, we became big fans of Spain’s casual attitude, tapas food, historic art museums, creative architecture, and the siesta schedule. 

Silly stockings, Santa hats, and mistletoe in the Christmas market, Barcelona, Spain. 

Silly stockings, Santa hats, and mistletoe in the Christmas market, Barcelona, Spain. 

Next stop, gather our family in Barcelona. 

Keith met Patrick and Hilary at the airport and put them on a bus to our Airbnb. They each flew to Spain on separate flights - alone! Our apartment had a living room, a kitchen, one bath and three bedrooms. This allowed our kids (and us) enough space for personal time.  

Listening to Rick's Audio Tour of Barcelona. 

Listening to Rick's Audio Tour of Barcelona. 

Together, we were introduced to Barcelona by downloading a walking tour using Rick Steves Audio Europe Travel App. How many times during dinner did the four of us watch “Rick” on Valley Public Television? Now we were “walking the talk.” We were doing it, traveling in Spain with narration by our favorite travel guide. 

Our family has a history of taking bicycle tours. It was a beautiful clear warm day for a Fat Tire Bike Tour. With a few wrong turns and intimidating bike lanes down the middle of busy roads, we pedaled to the sights of historic Barcelona; out through the ancient Roman wall ruins, over to the landmark Sagrada Família, and down to the yacht docks on the Mediterranean coast.  

Thank you Fat Tire Bicycle Tours. 

Thank you Fat Tire Bicycle Tours. 

The Sacred Family of the "Sagrada Família."

The Sacred Family of the "Sagrada Família."

On Christmas Eve, we did something new and unusual for us. We went to church. Returning to Barcelona’s famed Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família, we were awe struck.  The Sagrada Família is a massive work of art. Inspirational even to a non-believer.  I have heard stories of massive crowds in sweltering heat filling the Basilica and Expiatory Church of the Holy Family. But in December, the air was mild and there were no swarming selfie-stick swinging tour groups. We wandered around the artwork freely and comfortably. 


The audio tour for the Sagrada Família pointed out beetles, birds, people, places, positions, problems, and apostles.  It gave an overview of Gaudi’s vision for this masterpiece and it explained how he had dedicated his life, and all of his life earnings, to this unfinished 200-year construction project.

We swam through organic images. Waves of light, rainbows of color, flowing shapes, iconic visions, and unspoken impressions swarmed around us. All towering overhead. Overwhelming beauty. 


In the Sagrada Família,
In a quiet moment, 

We sat.  The four of us.



During our Whelan Family Holiday Walkabout, we visited the Barcelona Christmas market with vendors selling flashing lights, funny hats, nativity scenes, and the famous pooping Catalan Caganer.  In our Airbnb, we had a small Christmas tree with blue lights.  Each of us brought an ornament, and we packed along our traditional Christmas stockings.  And in Catalan Christmas tradition, we added a nativity figure, a poop log, and a Caganer. For Christmas Eve, I cooked a traditional Spanish fish soup. Patrick and Hilary took turns hitting the poop log and it actually dropped candy nougats!


On Christmas Day, our stockings were filled with goodies, and like the neighborhood locals, we went out for an elegant Catalan holiday dinner. 

There was no drama.  
No nagging advertisements for Christmas sales. 
No pressure to spend money to “save 50% off!” 
No counting down the shopping days until Christmas. 
No last-minute holiday rushing.  
No expectations to be someplace else.  
No “I need to get a present for … and I don’t know what to buy for them.” 
No “Have you finished your holiday shopping?” 

All the holiday shopping and pre-conceived expectations were left behind. It was our Christmas without "stuff."

We gave each other a gift – an experience of a lifetime. We shared self-reliance, personal exploration, private time, a personal moment together, a traditional holiday dinner, and the adventure of travel.  

“Mi familia es sagrada.”

My family is sacred. 

Thank-you Keith, Hilary, and Patrick.