Christmas music. Every December, the same old tunes hit the airwaves, setting that unmistakable festive vibe. You’ve got Wham!’s Last Christmas or Brenda Lee’s Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree—those timeless hits. And now, even the classics are climbing the charts, like Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christmas Is You, which rocked the Billboard Hot 100, 25 years after its debut.
What Makes a Hit?
There’s no exact recipe for a perfect Christmas song, but jingle those sleigh bells and borrow a bit from Phil Spector’s “Wall of Sound” style, and you’re on the right track. Spector’s 1963 album A Christmas Gift for You set the bar high. Hits like Darlene Love’s Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) inspired tunes from Wizzard’s I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday to Kelly Clarkson’s Underneath the Tree.
Meet the Unexpected Gem: Christmas Wrapping
But in the mix of all that cheer, there’s The Waitresses’ 1981 hit Christmas Wrapping, throwing a twist into the holiday spirit. The band might not be on everyone’s playlist, but this quirky, anti-Christmas tune has quietly become a favorite. Singer Patty Donahue croons, “Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas – but I think I’ll miss this one this year,” setting the tone. It’s a bit like The Pogues’ Fairytale of New York, but without the controversial lyrics.
Not Your Average Cheer
Unlike Fairytale of New York, Christmas Wrapping keeps it family-friendly with a bit of an anti-holiday vibe. Music writer Rhian Daly calls it “cool and alternative but still festive” with its catchy intro and shiny guitar riffs. Hugh McIntyre from Forbes adds that it’s goofy in a timeless way, giving a different, relatable angle to holiday tunes.
A Relatable Holiday Story
Christmas Wrapping isn’t your usual holly-jolly tune. It starts with a “Bah, humbug!” vibe and keeps it real, hitting home for anyone feeling the holiday stress. Donahue sings about needing a break and wanting to fly solo for Christmas—something lots of us can relate to.
Real-Life Holiday Feels
McIntyre thinks the song clicks because it captures the everyday struggles during the “season of goodwill.” It’s less about snowy walks and cozy firesides and more about the “oops, forgot something for dinner” moments.
The Unexpected Twist
The song flips the script when Donahue runs into someone familiar at a late-night grocery store—a chance encounter that sparks a lost romance. The cynical outlook transforms into genuine holiday joy by the end with a heartfelt “Merry Christmas, couldn’t miss this one this year.”
Behind the Tune
Chris Butler, The Waitresses’ guitarist, penned the song from his own holiday stress. He wasn’t sold on the idea at first but poured his freelance journalist woes into its lyrics. Its catchy chorus and rap-inspired title—Christmas Wrapping—add to its unique charm.
A Bittersweet Legacy
Despite starting as a quirky hit from a lesser-known band, Christmas Wrapping has stuck around. Donahue’s dry delivery and Mars Williams’ iconic saxophone riff—both sadly no longer with us—still shine in a song that sneaks back onto the UK charts every December.
A Timeless Tune
McIntyre believes this quirky anthem will keep climbing, thanks to streaming playlists and shoutouts in pop culture, like its feature on TV’s Glee. It’s the unexpected holiday jam that stands out, cozying up next to the classics we all love.