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Arts & Culture

Tiny Desk Playlist: The Holiday Concerts

Pandemic life has short-circuited many holiday traditions this year, as intergenerational family togetherness has given way to Zoom calls, and Black Friday shopping has given way to the sweet, sweet absence of Black Friday shopping. But it's also a golden opportunity to reboot your routines: to start baking Christmas cookies, or make handmade greeting cards, or lock down a pact with your family to leave the tree up until summer. These are heady and challenging times, so what's to keep you from declaring that Christmas, for you and yours, now takes place from Dec. 23 until June 23?

OK, so here's another new tradition for you to stuff in your stocking: What if, from now on, you spent the weekend before Christmas gathering up your immediate family — or sealing yourself in a virus-proof bubble, whichever — and hunkering down to watch every Tiny Desk holiday concert ever recorded?

The Tiny Desk series has existed since April 2008 — long enough for our holiday sets to become traditions unto themselves. In fact, you can watch the moment they became a tradition here, as the charming U.K. folk-pop band Fanfarlo closed their December 2009 set with a cover of Low's "Just Like Christmas." (Speaking of traditions, the Christmas tree I hastily scrawled onto a piece of looseleaf paper for the occasion still hangs at the Tiny Desk, crumpled but mighty, 11 years later.)

Ever since, we've made an official holiday Tiny Desk concert happen each year, starting with Matt Wilson's Christmas Tree-O in 2010 and including everyone from Sharon Jones to Amy Grant to Hanson to HMSTR. (Now, that's range!) We've even recorded the occasional one-off holiday song, as we did with Wyclef Jean's cover of "Feliz Navidad" or Steve Martin & The Steep Canyon Rangers' "The Strangest Christmas Yet," both of which we captured for 2017's The Big Tiny Desk Holiday Special.

As you'd expect, the Tiny Desk has sat empty due to the pandemic since March, so we weren't able to decorate this year — though we are about to publish a holiday-themed Tiny Desk (Home) Concert. Still, my scrappy little hand-drawn Christmas tree continues to hang, waiting for us to return and start dreaming up holiday traditions as yet unimagined.


Tiny Desks In This Playlist

  • Matt Wilson (read more)
  • The Music Tapes (read more)
  • The Polyphonic Spree (read more)
  • Preservation Hall Jazz Band (read more)
  • HMSTR (read more)
  • Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings (read more)
  • The Oh Hellos (read more)
  • Hanson (read more)
  • Amy Grant (read more)
  • Los Lobos (read more)
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