Christmas at Philo's in La Cruz

To get in the Christmas spirit, we dressed Rhapsody up with a string of Christmas lights and pulled out a small 10" Christmas Tree and various decorations and set them up inside the salon.

On Christmas day nearly everyone converged on Philo's for his annual potluck dinner and gift giveaway. Philo would provide the Turkey, and everyone was to bring a dish to serve 6-8 adults. We had heard thru the grapevine that it would be best to get there early, as the place would be packed.

So, around 4:00, we made our way up to the bar for the official 6:00 pm dinner. Sure enough, by 5:00 all the interior seating was taken up, and by the time 6:00 rolled around, every seat, including those out on the street, were occupied with excited, happy, hungry people.

Russ, who runs the Casa Lori Rib Wagon, cooked the Turkeys, and a crew of people were detailed to carve them in the kitchen. Several tables were laden with every kind of dish imaginable. Rusty made a great stuffing, and there was a five gallon pot of gravy simmering on the stove. Louis made some Perogies, which were a big hit, too. Philo passed out playing cards (from a Pinocle deck) to everyone as they arrived, and those with lower numbered cards were called first to the banquet.

We had gotten the 3 of clubs, so were among the first to sample the fare. I loaded my large paper plate up so much that it could barely hold it all ... turkey and dressing, casserole, some tamales, and a variety of the tastiest potato and pasta salads that I can remember. When we finally cut into the food and tasted it, all I can tell you is that it was heavenly. Russ had done a masterful job of cooking the Turkey, and it was moist, juicy, and sweet.

There were all kinds of desserts as well. I had some german chocolate cake and Louis revelled in the cheesecake :-)

At about 6:30, the kids started lining up in the streets for the presents. Every year Philo gets donations from cruisers, people bring things from the states or donate cash, and they put together gift bags for the children of La Cruz. Each bag contains a nice toy, maybe a soccer ball or a doll, some clothing, coloring books and crayons, and a generous dose of candy. There are four kinds of bags, for small boys, small girls, big boys, and big girls. Altogether, this year Philo put together over 450 bags for the giveaway!

Then Santa, usually a kindly local who speaks Spanish and dresses for the part, calls the children up one at a time onto his lap to get the christmas wish and give the child his present. It was quite something to see 300-400 children all bunched up, eyes eager with anticipation, waiting their turn to see Santa.

Louis, whom I've mentioned before, is a great juggler, and he dressed in a sparkely vest and entertained the children out in the street as they were waiting for their presents. Since I juggle a little bit, he enlisted me to join him in the act. I juggled balls while he juggled the pins, and we did all variety of mixed up things like juggling back and forth between us and stealing each others items.

Some other people also came out of the crowd to join us juggling and at one point there were three of us going simultaneously. Each of us would also stop at various times and encourage some in the line to try juggling. They were great sports and some would successfully toss two, or even occasionally, three balls in the air, but all were as cute as can be. It was great fun!

After the last child had gotten their presents (I think it was something like 463), Philo and the band got up on stage and played several sets of music and everyone danced and made merry throughout the rest of the evening. We finally left at around 11:00 p.m., and as we made our way back to the boat, everyone was remarking what a nice Christmas it had been, indeed!