Christmas song. You know the usual suspects—the tunes that scream “Christmas” when December hits, like Wham!’s Last Christmas or Brenda Lee’s Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree. But among them, some oddballs have found their way into our holiday playlists. One of them? The Waitresses’ 1981 hit, Christmas Wrapping—a quirky gem that’s totally not your typical festive track.
Crafting a Holiday Tune
There’s no recipe for the perfect Christmas song, but sleigh bells and that Phil Spector “Wall of Sound” vibe sure help. Spector’s 1963 album, A Christmas Gift for You, set the bar. Songs like Darlene Love’s Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) became iconic covers for artists like U2 and Michael Bublé. And hey, it inspired hits like Wizzard’s I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday or Kelly Clarkson’s Underneath the Tree.
Meet the Unexpected: Christmas Wrapping
The Waitresses might not be a big name, but they brought something different with Christmas Wrapping. It’s not your usual “ho ho ho” song. Singer Patty Donahue kicks off with a “Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas – but I think I’ll miss this one this year,” setting the tone. It’s got that anti-Christmas vibe, a bit like The Pogues’ Fairytale of New York, minus the controversial bits.
Not Your Average Cheer
While Fairytale of New York got flak for its lyrics, Christmas Wrapping keeps it PG, giving us an “anti-cheer” tune. Music writer Rhian Daly calls it “cool and alternative” yet still brings the festive vibes with its catchy intro and shiny guitar bits. Forbes’ Hugh McIntyre loves how it’s campy and silly in a way that lasts, offering a different, more relatable take on holiday music.
The Real Holiday Deal
Christmas Wrapping isn’t about the snowy walks or cozy fireplace scenes you hear about in regular holiday tunes. It’s more like, “Oops, forgot something for dinner.” Patty Donahue sings about needing a break and wanting to do Christmas solo—a feeling plenty of us get.
Everyday Holiday Hustle
McIntyre thinks the song clicks because it’s relatable. It’s not all winter wonderlands and warm hugs. It’s more about the real-life struggles during the “season of goodwill.” Think less magic and more “uh-oh, forgot the cranberry sauce!”
The song’s story takes a turn when Donahue heads to a late-night grocery store and bumps into someone familiar. That chance encounter sparks a lost romance, turning her holiday blues into real Christmas joy by the end.
The Story Behind the Tune
Written by The Waitresses’ guitarist Chris Butler, the song was born from his own holiday stress. At first, he wasn’t sold on the idea, but he poured his freelance journalist struggles into the lyrics. Its catchy chorus and rap-inspired title—Christmas Wrapping—add to its unique charm.
A Touching Legacy
Despite starting as a novelty hit from an underdog band, Christmas Wrapping stuck around. Donahue’s sassy style and Mars Williams’ unforgettable saxophone riff—both sadly gone now—still echo in a song that pops back onto the UK charts every December.
A Timeless Tune
McIntyre believes this offbeat anthem will keep rising. It’s showing up on streaming playlists and making waves in pop culture (hello, Glee). It’s that unexpected holiday hit, chilling with the classics we all know and love.