“Christmas Wrapping” by The Waitresses continues to charm decades later


The Waitresses, a new wave band from Akron, Ohio, is probably best known for their flirty song, “I Know What Boys Like.” Shortly after that underground hit, The Waitresses released a Christmas song called “Christmas Wrapping.” The song is fun on the surface, but really is a modern girl’s lament about dating.

The joy of “Christmas Wrapping”

Tucked around the rapid-fire bass groove, and later around a ska-like horn line, are the equally fast lyrics. The brass keeps the song bouncy, and lead singer’s Patty Donahue delivery seems almost nonchalant. The song’s title might be a play on homophones. In that sense, “wrapping” becomes “rapping.” And that seems perfect because that is more like what Donahue is doing, as opposed to actually singing.

The song begins with “bah humbug” but because of the delivery, it is more of an off-handed complaint. The lyrics detail how busy the singer’s year (1981) had been. And then, she had the misfortune of meeting a guy at the “ski shop” and she “had his number but never the time.”

The pace of the lyrics adds to the blurring sequence of events that are detailed in the song. Ultimately, because of all the things she had to do during the year, the singer is not exactly interested in finding the potential love interest from the ski shop. Instead, she wants a quiet Christmas alone.

There seems to have been an evolution of sorts – – the singer doesn’t seem to have the same mindset as the one who couldn’t wait to frustrate the next boy in “I Know What Boys Like.” Independence is the underlying theme of the song. The theme plus the soundscape makes the song a new wave Christmas classic.

“Christmas Wrapping’s” popularity

The success of The Waitresses is not found in chart placings. For the most part, their most famous songs were underground hits. “I Know What Boys Like” failed to chart, as did “Christmas Wrapping.” At least in the US. In the UK, “Christmas Wrapping” reached No. 45 when it was first released, and in 2016, it experienced a resurgence in popularity and reached No. 96.

For a song that never really charted in the US, “Christmas Wrapping” is popular. That popularity is further borne out by the number of groups willing to cover the song.  It has also shown up in television commercials in the US. The song was also performed on the show “Glee.” In addition, both The Spice Girls and Kylie Minogue (with Iggy Pop) also did versions of the song. In this way, the song’s popularity expanded beyond the early 1980s.

“Christmas Wrapping” is a fun addition to a holiday playlist whether a listener spends Christmas alone or with others.

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Dodie Miller-Gould is a native of Fort Wayne, Indiana who lives in New York City where she studies creative nonfiction at Columbia University. She has BA and MA degrees in English from Indiana University-Purdue University, Fort Wayne, and an MFA in Fiction from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Her research interests include popular music and culture, 1920s jazz, and blues, confessional poetry, and the rhetoric of fiction. She has presented at numerous conferences in rhetoric and composition, and creative writing. Her creative works have appeared in Tenth Muse, Apostrophe, The Flying Island, Scavenger's Newsletter and elsewhere. She has won university-based awards for creative work and literary criticism.

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