Darren Criss Opens Up About New Holiday Album — and Why He Dedicated It to His Late Dad

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Darren Criss
Darren Criss

Jamie McCarthy/Getty Darren Criss

Do you hear jingle bells? That may be Darren Criss going back to his musical roots — but this time with a Christmas twist.

The Glee alum, 34, released his new holiday album, A Very Darren Crissmas on Friday — and established his return to the music scene after earning acclaim for his performances in The Assassination of Gianna Versace: American Crime Story and Hollywood.

In this week's issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday, Criss opens up about why he dedicated the album to his father Bill, who died last year after battling a heart condition.

Darren Criss Christmas album 2021
Darren Criss Christmas album 2021

F. Scott Schafer for Decca Records Darren Criss Album Cover Art

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"He gave everybody around him the kind of joy the songs are about. Plus, the man could cook a real good Christmas goose," Criss says. "I mean, come on: Other than in Dickensian literature, have you ever come across anyone who actually knew how to prepare a proper Christmas goose? If that wasn't worthy of a holiday album dedication, I don't know what is."

Criss says the new album was a check off his bucket list.

RELATED VIDEO: Darren Criss Announces First-Ever Holiday Album Featuring Songs with Adam Lambert, Evan Rachel Wood

"Actors have their hit list of dream projects: 'Oh, I want to do a costume drama. Or a romantic comedy or a horror movie.' A holiday album is part of the repertoire that [musical] artists do at some point or another," Criss says.

When it comes to holiday traditions, Criss says that he and his wife Mia enjoy baking together.

"Decorating Christmas cookies [is] a tradition Mia brought into my life from her own upbringing and something I've been really grateful for and have enjoyed the past several years," the actor says. "We don't even eat half of them. We just get into the designing part and making them look really great."

Darren with both of his parents
Darren with both of his parents

Alex Berliner/Invision/AP/Shutterstock Darren Criss with His Parents

As part of the celebrations pinned to the album and the holiday season, Criss will be heading on A Very Darren Crissmas tour from Dec. 3 through Dec. 22. Along with the tour, Criss is set to return to Broadway for American Buffalo, with the show opening at the Circle in the Square Theatre on April 14, 2022.

Criss previously announced with PEOPLE he would be releasing the album filled with covers of holiday classics, new songs and collaborations with stars such as Adam Lambert.

"Adam and I obviously have history. I actually forgot that we were on Glee together. We've been friends for so long," Criss says, describing their duet as "a la Bob Hope and Bing Crosby." "It's hard not to admire the guy when he sounds like that! He's an incredible vocalist and is primarily known for his rock and pop stuff, so it was a fun excuse for him to get to do a lot of chromatic harmonies and real jazz musician s—."

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He told PEOPLE at the time, "I always knew that if I ever made a Christmas album, it would have to be much more than just a collection of songs you already knew. I'd want it to be a journey through songs that not only had a personal significance to my life, but also a unique introduction to songs folks had never heard before, and a re-introduction to a few they might think they know — but have never considered differently."

"Every eclectic choice led this album to feel astutely true to its namesake: a very, indisputably, 'me' Christmas," Criss adds.

For more details on Darren Criss, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands everywhere Friday.