Unlikely as it seems, this happened Wednesday evening: The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States sponsored a reception with an open bar in its new ninth-floor headquarters at 13th and I streets NW, overlooking Franklin Square, and most of the guests darted toward the table where Coca-Cola Clasic was being dispensed.

The event marked what purported to be a Christmas tree-lighting ceremony in Franklin Square -- 1,500 tiny, sparkling white lights, the media were advised by the Franklin Square Association, would be energized "to symbolize the change from the 'red light district' " that long stained the neighborhood.

Except for those on a few trees on the fringes of the square, the lights didn't go on, raising hopes they later would. But a couple dozen members, about half the total, of the National Children's Choir sang carols as yule logs crackled (under the watchful eyes of the D.C. Fire Department) where a water fountain spurts during the summer.

And that gets us to the reception. A man carrying a gnarled cane led the choristers and other invited guests across the street to the Distilled Spirits Council reception where most adults chose the council's spirited hospitality while the majority of guests, those from the Children's Chorus ranging in age from 6-year-old Charles Ross to some in the lower teens, drank their fill of Cokes. It's worth noting that the young set ate more cheese chunks than pate.

Kara Morley, 12, of Chevy Chase, was asked what she thought was the most memorable aspect of the chorus appearance. "It was funny," she said, "when the lights didn't go on."