Many New Orleans families are gathering to celebrate a very special day. Back when my two children, who now have children of their own, were youngsters, we baked a cake for Christmas and gathered to sing “Happy birthday, Jesus.”

Some will consider such a custom sentimentality. To them, I say “Bah, humbug.”

Not a single Scrooge did I spot among the packed pews at St. Louis Cathedral on Dec. 16 as the Hot Club of New Orleans played gypsy jazz and holiday tunes. The five musicians were among those who entertained locals and tourists during this year’s Christmas New Orleans-style concert series.

Seeing and hearing the Hot Club play mere steps from the majestic altar, under a magnificent mural of the Nativity scene, seemed perfectly natural. Their music filled the basilica of St. Louis King of France with life-affirming harmony.

The hourlong free concert wound down with a wonderful rendition of “The Christmas Song” (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire). As the sentimental lyrics say, “And so I’m offering this simple phrase, to kids from 1 to 92, although it’s been said many times many ways, ‘Merry Christmas’ to you.”

Oaks celebration continues

It’s not too late to enjoy Celebration in the Oaks this holiday season. You can say hello to Mr. Bingle and visit myriad displays amid thousands of sparkling lights through Jan. 3 at the New Orleans Botanical Garden, Carousel Gardens Amusement Park and Storyland at City Park.

Hours are 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday — including Christmas and New Year’s Day — and 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. The event will be closed Dec. 31, New Year’s Eve.

Here’s hoping that you find many ways to enjoy these last days of 2014. Thanks to all who contributed to this community news column this year, and I hope that you will “throw me somethin’ ” to add in 2015.

Lynne Jensen writes about New Orleans community events and people. Contact her at