In these final weeks of a year like no other, tune to NHPR for a robust schedule of holiday programming, songs and stories that reflect the spirit of the season.
From Hanukkah to Christmas to Kwanzaa, programs celebrating different holiday traditions and cultures will be sprinkled throughout our programming schedule, marking the festive period.
Along with local favorites and beloved national programs and concerts, listeners can also hear new specials this year featuring a diversity of voices. Whether your holiday traditions include an epic cookie bake-off, walks in the woods, or new-style Zoom gatherings, NHPR has you covered with the perfect holiday soundtrack.
See the daily schedule of special programming below:
Thursday, Dec. 10
8-9 pm: Hanukkah Lights 2020 (NPR)
A perennial NPR favorite, Hanukkah Lights features all new Hanukkah stories read by hosts Susan Stamberg and Murray Horwitz. Owing to a difficult year, this year’s stories have darker themes than usual. But the hope is that the miracle of Hanukkah casts its light through the radio. Stories will reflect giving thanks for unexpected gifts; a tale of yearning for the dark days to be over and bright days to come; and a young woman’s search for a sense of belonging.
Saturday, Dec. 12
10-11 pm: Christmas Spirits High And Low: A special encore Christmas presentation from Selected Shorts (APM)
Guest host Cynthia Nixon - best known for playing Miranda on “Sex and the City” and for her social activism - presents two stories of Christmas challenges and cheer, and shares a few of her own holiday traditions.
The first story is Laurie Notaro’s “O Holy Night, or The Year I Ruined Christmas.” This hilarious tale involving a hideous Christmas tree and a demanding parent with a long memory is read by actress and writer Kirsten Vangsness.
In Jeanette Winterson’s luminous “Spirit of Christmas” story, a married couple set off for their holiday with frayed tempers and too much “stuff.” They wind up with nothing but a miracle. Actress Christina Pickles is the reader.
NOTE: This program originally aired in 2019.
Monday, Dec. 14
1-2 pm: How We Survive: Adapting To Climate Change (Marketplace Tech/APM)
Experts say we must adapt to climate change - but what does that adaptation actually look like? This one-hour special from Marketplace, led by Molly Wood, explores the role of technology in helping humanity weather the impacts of climate change. The main focus will be on practical, tangible tools that can help solve this crisis, while also exploring the pandemic’s impact on how quickly technology can be deployed to help.
Thursday, Dec. 17
8-9 pm: Candles Burning Brightly (APM)
This one-hour special is all about a celebration of Chanukah, the Jewish Festival of Lights, with an exploration of Chanukah foods and traditional activities … all sprinkled with plenty of music. Make your sufganiyot (small filled doughnuts cooked in oil), or fry up some potato latkes, then take a listen.
Saturday, Dec. 19
8-10 pm: Holidays By Request IV (NHPR)
NHPR continues its own holiday musical tradition, with a brand new edition of Holidays By Request. Wrap up the year on a festive note, by joining Morning Edition host Rick Ganley and producer Emily Quirk for two hours of “under-appreciated” holiday tunes, requested by listeners. This year features a new element: original home recordings submitted by listeners themselves. Call in and leave a voicemail, and we may use YOUR voice and YOUR song request on the air. [The number is 603-223-2452, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org]
NOTE: An encore broadcast of this program airs Christmas Eve, Thursday, December 24, from 8 to 10 p.m.
10-11 pm: Best of Public Radio: Festivo AltLatino with Cantigas (NPR)
NPR Music's Alt.Latino presents the rebroadcast of Festivo Alt.Latino - a special holiday concert featuring the 20-piece choral ensemble Choral Cantigas. This musical performance also includes stories about holiday traditions and cultures. Hear a traditional Peruvian Christmas carol, folk music from Brazil, Spain, and Mexico, plus Parrandas (musical street parties) from Venezuela and Puerto Rico. The many rich styles of Latino choral music will unite listeners through the joyful and transformative power of music. Hosted by Felix Contreras.
NOTE: This concert originally aired in 2014.
Sunday, Dec. 20
6-7 pm: Miracle on 34th Street (New London Barn Playhouse)
Miracle on 34th Street is based on the classic 1947 film starring Maureen O’Hara, John Payne and Edmund Gwenn as Kris Kringle. When a department store Santa claims he’s the real Kris Kringle, his case gets taken all the way to the Supreme Court, and one little girl’s belief makes all the difference in the “miracle.” Recorded live with Foley effects (sound reproductions) and holiday carols, this special radio rebroadcast of Miracle on 34th Street will melt even the most cynical of hearts. Produced by the New London Barn Playhouse - the oldest, continuously operating Summer Stock theater in New Hampshire, and a longtime NHPR trade partner.
7-10 pm: The Folk Show (NHPR)
A Folk Show tradition - “The Stocking Stuffer” edition - gives audience members a chance to request songs for their loved ones, with a mix of holiday and listener favorites. Join host Kate McNally and her devoted base of listeners for a holiday special rich in community and connection.
Monday, Dec. 21
8-9 pm: The Big Tiny Desk Concert Holiday Special (NPR)
Celebrate the season with amazing holiday performances from The Tiny Desk Concert series including Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings, Steve Martin, Hanson, The Polyphonic Spree and more! In this holiday special rebroadcast, join NPR Music's Bob Boilen and Stephen Thompson as they look back on these and other performances from years past.
NOTE: This program originally aired in 2017.
Tuesday, Dec. 22
8-9 pm: A Mountain Stage Holiday Special (NPR)
From the heartfelt to the humorous, this new Mountain Stage special looks back at the songs and stories that remind us of this magical time of year. Listeners will hear performances from Joan Baez, Bruce Cockburn, Odetta, Loudon Wainwright III, Holly Cole, The Roches, Kathy Mattea, Michael Martin Murphey and more. The program is hosted by Larry Groce, produced by West Virginia Public Broadcasting and distributed by NPR Music.
Wednesday, Dec. 23
8-9 pm: All Songs Considered for the Holidays (NPR)
All Songs Considered is home to new music and a community of fans always ready to share their opinions on the current music scene. Hosted by Bob Boilen and Robin Hilton, the show will feature both long-loved and emerging singers.
Thursday, Dec. 24
10-noon: A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols (APM)
Listeners are encouraged to join a worldwide Christmas Eve broadcast of a service of Biblical readings, carols, and related seasonal “classical” music (anthems - both a cappella and with organ accompaniment, and congregational hymns). The broadcast, an NHPR listener favorite, is presented by one of the world’s foremost choirs of men and boys, and performed in the acoustically and architecturally renowned King’s College Chapel, in Cambridge, England.
2-3 pm: Welcome Christmas! (APM)
From APM, Welcome Christmas! is a perennial Christmas favorite from VocalEssence, one of the world’s premiere choral groups, conducted by Philip Brunelle. John Birge hosts an hour of traditional carols and new discoveries, including the world premiere of two carols from the annual Christmas Carol Contest.
3-4 pm: The Yule Log Old Time Radio Show (NHPR)
NHPR's Rick Ganley and Sean Hurley team up for an old-timey hour of Christmas stories and memories. Sean will share his favorite “winter essays” and heartwarming family stories. This special - broadcast each year on NHPR for the holiday season - will become one of your family's favorite holiday listening traditions!
7-8 pm: A Soulful Christmas (APM)
Hosts Julie Amacher and Tesfa Wondemagegnehu will lead listeners through this uplifting Christmas special that features Black music and composers. A Soulful Christmas celebrates classical music by Black artists, while exploring spirituals, gospel music, jazz and other Black musical traditions.
8-10 pm: Holidays By Request IV
Rebroadcast of the December 19 broadcast.
10-11 pm: Jazz Night in America: A Holiday Celebration (NPR)
New 2020 Jazz Night in America edition provides the perfect menu of swinging holiday classics featuring The Sherman Irby sextet, recorded live at Dizzy's Club at Jazz At Lincoln Center in New York City. The program is hosted by jazz bassist, composer and arranger Christian McBride.
Friday, Dec. 25
9-10 am: The Exchange: Gerald Charles Dickens' 'A Christmas Carol' (NHPR)
On Christmas morning, NHPR hearkens back to a seasonal favorite, our 2005 conversation with Gerald Charles Dickens, Charles Dickens's great-great-grandson and an actor. Dickens toured America with his one-man performance of "A Christmas Carol”; we spoke with him about the legacy of his namesake and the enduring magic of this holiday story. He also performs a handful of scenes from his show.
10-11 am: An Afro Blue Christmas (NPR)
An Afro Blue Christmas is a joyous celebration that includes one of a kind arrangements of traditional holiday songs, plus new compositions. The concert features Howard University's premiere vocal ensemble Afro Blue, and special guest pianist Cyrus Chestnut. Hear the a cappella group perform a variety of holiday songs including African-American spirituals, jazz and pop tunes, and classical repertoire. The concert is hosted by former All Things Considered co-host Michele Norris.
NOTE: This concert originally aired in 2014.
11-noon: The Yule Log Old Time Radio Show
Rebroadcast of the December 25 airing.
12 pm: Tinsel Tales: NPR Christmas Favorites (NPR)
This program features stories from the NPR archives that touch on the meaning of Christmas. David Sedaris, Bailey White, John Henry Faulk -- these and other NPR voices, past and present, tell stories of the season. Hosted by NPR arts correspondent Lynn Neary.
1 pm: Tinsel Tales 2: More NPR Christmas Favorites
Join us for a second hour of Tinsel Tales. Each December, NPR fills millions of homes with humor, warmth, and a host of festive voices. Continuing with the tradition of the first Tinsel Tales program, this is another collection of the best and most requested holiday stories. Joy, hope, and childhood memories overflow as NPR voices, past and present, tell stories of the season. Hosted by Lynn Neary.
2 pm: Tinsel Tales 3: Even More NPR Christmas Favorites
Hear the third collection of extraordinary Christmas stories that will transport you to unexpected places.
Audie Cornish, Ken Harbaugh, Nina Totenberg and other voices from NPR's past and present tell stories of the season in this hour-long special. Some tales are funny; some are touching; some are insightful or irreverent or nostalgic or surprising. You might recognize them from our broadcast archives — or you might fall in love with them for the first time. Hosted by Lynn Neary.
3 pm: Tinsel Tales 4: So Much More NPR Christmas Favorites
In keeping with a well-loved NPR holiday tradition, hear the fourth and final collection of extraordinary Christmas stories that will transport you to unexpected places. Hosted by Lynn Neary.
7-8 pm: Joy To The World: A Holiday In Pink (NPR)
The internationally acclaimed “little orchestra" Pink Martini bedecks the airwaves with festive holiday songs from across the globe. From timeless classics to rarely heard gems, tune in for an uplifting, multi-denominational, multi-cultural jubilee, overflowing with enough holiday spirit to warm your entire family. Hosted by All Things Considered's Ari Shapiro, and co-produced by Oregon Public Broadcasting and Murray Street Productions.
NOTE: This concert originally aired in 2015.
8-9 pm: Miracle on 34th Street (New London Playhouse Radio Special)
Rebroadcast of the December 20 airing.
9-10 pm: Live Wire Holiday Special 2020 (PRX)
This "Best of 2020" holiday episode features masters of improv Thomas Middleditch & Ben Schwartz, comedian Atsuko Okatsuka, and music from neo-folk performer Amythyst Kiah.
Saturday, Dec. 26
10-11 pm: Best of Public Radio: A Season’s Griot (PRX)
A Season's Griot is public radio's only nationally syndicated Kwanzaa program. Hosted for 25 years by acclaimed storyteller Madafo Lloyd Wilson, this annual one-hour special captures the tales and traditions of African American and African peoples. The show’s poet laureate, Beverly Burnette, and other members of the Season’s Griot family return with familiar and favorite elements of Griot.
Sunday, Dec. 27
7-10 pm: The Folk Show - New Year’s Wish Edition (NHPR)
Wednesday, Dec. 30
7-8 pm: Revolution of the Senses (BBC and APM)
This new documentary style special from our partners at the BBC shares the work of four radio producers, revealing the effect of COVID-19 on how people experience touch, sight, sound, small and taste. As people from Europe and the world grapple with the pandemic and rebuild their lives, we hear deeply personal accounts with all the nuance of what seems like minor, daily experiences, but that are really at the heart of our humanity - connecting us to the self, family, community, society and nation. Listeners will hear stories from Italy, Spain, Belgium, Denmark, Scotland, and beyond.
Thursday, Dec. 31
7-8 pm: Sound Opinions: Best Albums of 2020 (PRX)
Hosts Jim DeRogatis and Greg Kot reflect on the best albums of the year, and we also hear from Sound Opinions producers and listeners about their favorite musical stylings of 2020.
8-9 pm: It's Been A Minute: A Special Year End Episode (NPR)
In this special, end of year episode of It's Been A Minute, we'll hear from people of all ages, from all over the country -- and world -- about how their lives have changed forever since the pandemic started.
9 pm-1 am: Toast of the Nation (NPR)
An NPR tradition every New Year's Eve since the 1970s, Toast of the Nation is the perfect audio complement for the occasion. It's festive jazz you can party to, all night long, at home or virtually with friends.
Friday, Jan. 1
10-11 am: BBC Correspondents' Look Ahead (APM)
11 am-1 pm: New Year’s Day from Vienna (NPR Broadcast)
The ever-popular annual New Year’s Day Concert will be performed by the i’llWiener Philharmoniker under the baton of Maestro Riccardo Muti. You'll hear your favorite waltzes, polkas and more -- a great way to start off 2021! Hosted by WBUR's Lisa Mullins.
Saturday, Jan. 2
10-11 pm: Best of Public Radio: The Keepers: Archiving the Now (PRX)
The Keepers: Archiving the Now is a new hour-long special from The Kitchen Sisters and PRX with host, Academy Award-winning actress Frances McDormand. Stories of can-do people. Must-do people. Get-it-done people. People who are grappling with the now, the where we are and the where we’ve got to get to. The Kitchen Sisters have been gleaning insights, looking for those who have something to offer during these uncharted times. And host Frances McDormand speaks of her new film, Nomadland, about the new nomads - itinerant workers living in DIY vans, moving across America. This special is full of striking stories of grit, hope and possibility.
As the New Year approaches us with hopes anew, the team at NHPR wishes you and your family a safe and hopeful holiday season, and a better year ahead.