After 1000kms on the via de la plata I felt relief, a great sense of achievement and not a little emotion. Standing in front of the cathedral was probably the pinnacle-more so than the mass the next day. oddly enough I was walking with a Dannish fellow but spontaneously separated to be with our own thoughts for a few minutes in front of the cathedral.
One way to mark the end of the journey would be to select a few prayers.
The "Pilgrimage Psalms" (Psalms 120-136) are a good start, both for the journey and your arrival at Santiago.
The Te Deum is a classic prayer of thanksgiving of the Church. For the musically inclined, the Te Deum can be sung, as can any other song of Thanksgiving ("Now Thank We All Our God"). I find singing to be a particuarly good practice, and have a host of songs (spiritual & secular) memorized for the journey.
Gratitude is an important aspect of the Christian spiritual life (as well as other religious traditions). Explore the prayers of your tradition and see what resonates with you, as there are no prescribed prayer. There are several compendia of prayers out there you can use, and on-line resources are also valuable. I find Benedictine resources to be particularly helpful.
A traditional ending of the Pilgrimage with Mass & Confession is also a good practice.
2002 CF: 2004 from Paris: 2006 VF: 2007 CF: 2009 Aragones, Ingles, Finisterre: 2011 X 2 on CF: 2013 'Caracoles': 2014 CF and Ingles 'Caracoles":2015 Logrono-Burgos (Hospitalero San Anton): 2016 La Douay to Aosta/San Gimignano to Rome:
I find song is the one thing that gets me through tough times on the hike.
I was stuck in a bad spot in Iceland this summer. Foot of a glacier, solo, midnight, cold, raining and starting to shiver(!). I started singing my lungs out - exhausting my entire repetoire of marching songs, hymns and Irish folk songs. Was down to "Happy Birthday" by the time I got back to the car, but I made it. A lifesaver.
I find singing helps the most at the end of the march. Heck, it's when I sing the loudest.
One of the strangest parts for me was the walk from Monte de Gozo down into the city. It felt very alien to be descending back into a bustling, everyday town, not least because the route marking becomes sporadic and you hardly get a glimpse of the cathedral until you're right upon it.
Next time I bellow a tune out-of-tune - I will laugh remembering your how the sound of music kept you going and going and going ...
I did a good hike today (22 km) with two friends in the Gatineau hills and we managed to get over one wicked climb of hill on the way back by, out of the blue, getting into a really silly, funny conversation and before we knew it the hill was behind us.
A wise Swedish pilgrim told some fellow pilgrims and me: "you'll arrive in Santiago when you're supposed to arrive, and it'll be just perfect." She was right!
I arrived around the time of the Saint's feast during the summer of 2004 (a holy year). A few pilgrims who had been accompanying me since St. Jean began complaining that the closer we got to Santiago, the more crowded it was becoming. Although they became bitter pilgrims towards the end of the Camino, they were filled with childlike wonderment when they arrived in Santiago. Despite the crowds, they admitted that this was an incredibly wonderful experience.
During our first pilgrim's mass in Santiago, there were no seats in the Cathedral to be found--it was very crowded. We sat right down on the floor. We were dusty, sweaty, and grimy from walking. It couldn't have been more perfect or fitting. We watched in childlike amazement as the botafumeiro whisked back and forth above our heads spewing incense all around us.
Afterwards, we went into the plaza in front of the Cathedral, laid our backpacks down, and rested on the ground--just staring up at the Cathedral's facade. It felt very much like home, our living room.
It was tough to leave, to say goodbye. But as the Camino teaches you: you accept each person you meet on the road of life and cherish them for the fleeting moments you're able to spend with them, for you never know if you'll ever see them again.