Paul O'Neill, a co-founder and composer/producer for Trans-Siberian Orchestra, felt like it was time to offer a pair of gifts to TSO fans.
The first is the release of a brand-new five-song EP called Dreams of Fireflies (On a Christmas Night). The record is a departure from the standard TSO format of a full-length rock opera, but O'Neill told The Beat "it was a chance to say thanks to the fans.
"It's a little gem in the TSO catalog. I'm a good Irish boy, and Irish songs are very storytelling-oriented. Each one of these songs tells it own story."
Those stories include an ode to O'Neill's father in Someday.
"Oh, it's totally autobiographical," he said. "But I think it's something everyone can identify with. Everybody has someone they owe a debt of thanks to."
The other special treat for 2012 is the presentation, for the first time, of the second of TSO's Christmas rock operas, The Lost Christmas Eve, on the band's winter tour.
"We never intended for the first rock opera to tour for 13 years in a row, but it just kind of happened," O'Neill said. "It became a tradition, so people would tell me, 'If it's not broken, don't fix it.'
"But this year, I just had this gut instinct. I thought it would resonate with fans."
The Lost Christmas Eve tells the story of a father who, 40 years earlier, abandoned his young child. On Christmas Eve, he decides to see if he can find his grown son.
"There's something magical about Dec. 24 that allows people to undo their mistakes," O'Neill said. "The Lost Christmas Eve is about hope and redemption. That's the Frank Capra influence. I love a happy ending."
Despite what his gut was telling him, O'Neill confessed to being nervous at the multitude of changes to the staging and set list The Lost Christmas Eve required. On top of that, tour preparation was delayed by forces beyond the band's control.
"I wanted to have musical rehearsals in New York instead of our home base in Florida, because it was hurricane season," he said. "So we get everyone to New York and then a little thing called (Hurricane) Sandy happened.
"We didn't escape unscathed but everyone was safe. In the end, it all came together and everything worked."
TSO fans can expect a new stage and new effects in addition to the different material, including some things O'Neill said have been in the works for a number of years.
"Live music is more important than ever. In concert, there's an energy that's communal and self-freeing," he said. "We want people to share a moment together."
Tickets are $30-$69.50. Visit nationwidearena.com.