(CBS NEWS) – San Francisco native, Darren Criss is no stranger to performing Christmas music. The “Glee” star grew up playing holiday classics as a kid, and while in a band, called The Merry Gentleman in high school, he once attempted to play some Christmas tunes at a dance, a move he says “probably wasn’t very welcome, but we didn’t care.” His classmates probably would have preferred to rock out to a DJ instead, Criss said.
But on Sunday, Criss put his music skills and Christmas song experience to good use in New York City — all in the name of Toys for Tots.
New Yorkers came out in the rain to watch Criss perform a mix of holiday songs on guitar. The free outdoor show took place at the eBay Toy Box, a holiday pop-up shop where shoppers can give toys to children in need and also buy toys for their own kids.
“I messed up a lot of chords and a lot of words, but nobody noticed,” Criss said laughing during an interview with CBSNews.com. His mash-up of holiday tunes included “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree,” “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” and Alvin & the Chipmunks’ “Christmas Don’t Be Late,” which he considers one of his favorite Christmas songs.
“We also did sort of the ‘Glee’ version I do with Chris Colfer of ‘White Christmas,'” Criss added.
The 25-year-old actor/singer first teamed up with the organization two years ago in Los Angeles.
“I played a show at The Roxy and I thought it would be fun to do a Christmas show. And we turned it into a Toys for Tots thing,” said Criss, who had encouraged concertgoers to bring a new, unwrapped toy to the gig. Criss ended up being so “overwhelmed” by the response that he decided to host a similar holiday event last year in New York.
So when Toys for Tots asked him to team up again this year, Criss was happy to do it. Although he’s busy working in Los Angeles, Criss managed to fly out to New York just about an hour before the event.
“I would have hated to miss it,” said Criss, who watched as people donated toys for the cause. Shoppers unable to visit the eBay Toy Box, or those who live outside New York, can also donate through the eBay Give One program here.
“For me, I think everybody with half a heart tries to do their best to do their part of good during the holiday season,” Criss said. “I’m fortunate to have the sort of visibility, and it’s nice to use that to an advantage — where you shine that light on something a little more important than yourself and hopefully others follow suit. Hopefully, I’m just a gateway for other people to get into doing better things.”
As for Criss’ own upcoming holiday plans, he’ll be heading home to spend Christmas Eve and Day with his family before returning to the set of “Glee.”
“I have a tradition with my family that we do every year,” he said. “Like many families around the world, it’s the little things that you look forward to every year.”
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