With Christmas only a few weeks away, the city is busy preparing for the holiday, and it is decorating with boughs of garlands, thousands of tiny light bulbs and a special 30-foot tall tree.

With the flip of a festive switch, Gonzales officials will illuminate the city’s Christmas tree during the 23rd annual Jambalaya Country Christmas tree lighting ceremony at 6 p.m. Tuesday.

“It’s just a joyous occasion where you can see all the families come together and really get into the Christmas spirit,” said Gonzales Mayor Barney Arceneaux.

The event will take place across from city hall at the Gonzales Civic Center, 219 South Irma Blvd., and Santa Claus will hand out toys and cookies to children, said Lisa Babin, the city’s holiday committee chairperson.

The ceremony is popular with area residents.

At last year’s Christmas tree lighting ceremony, 637 children sat on Santa’s lap and received a gift, Babin said.

The event will also include Christmas carols sung by local Girl Scout troops and performers from Center Stage Performing Arts Academy, Babin said.

Free jambalaya and hot chocolate will be on hand thanks to the Jambalaya Festival Association, Babin said.

Babin said the city allocates money in its annual budget to provide the community Christmas event with the help of a local sponsor.

Visitors may park at city hall, the Gonzales Civic Center and the local Knights of Columbus hall nearby, she said.

Babin looks forward to the ceremony each year.

“I love doing it,” Babin said. “It’s fun.”

Gonzales Park and Recreation Supervisor Doty Gautreau’s six-person crew started in mid-October decorating city hall, Jambalaya Park and the Gonzales Civic Center with 30,000 to 40,000 light bulbs.

A time-consuming process, the crew checks each bulb before erecting the lights, bows and decorations.

“That’s why we start in October,” Gautreau said.

People know Christmas is near when they see the reindeer dotting the lawn at city hall, he said.