Christmas Wrapping

Album: A Christmas Record (1981)
Charted: 45

Songfacts®:

  • Written by group founder Chris Butler, in this song a woman meets a guy at a ski shop and gets his number. As the year goes by, they make dates, but for different reasons they can't get together. The woman is exhausted and ready to spend Christmas alone, but when she goes out for cranberry sauce to complete her meal, she runs into this guy and finds out he is also spending the holidays alone. Finally, they get together, giving her a merry Christmas after all.
  • The title is a play on "Christmas Rappin'," a 1979 song by Kurtis Blow that was the first rap song released on a major label.

    In 1981, rap music was just starting to enter the mainstream, and The Waitresses used a spoken style that could be considered rapping. Also, Chris Butler liked the play on the word "wrap," since the story wraps around, coming full circle at the end.
  • Inspiration for this song came from the magical Christmas feeling engendered in New York City that is seen in movies like Miracle on 34th Street. It's the idea that things will somehow work out in the end. "There is a feeling in New York that there is something in the background cooking around that time of year," Chris Bulter said in a Songfacts interview. "It does make things work out OK."
  • In 1981, this song was released as a single and appeared on the compilation A Christmas Record, which featured Christmas songs by various ZE Records artists, including Was (Not Was) and Davitt Sigerson.

    The song got some airplay in America, and another version of the compilation was released the following year. Over the next few years, however, the song died out in America. The turnaround came in 1987 when the A Very Special Christmas album was released, opening the market for edgy Christmas songs by contemporary artists. As radio programmers filled their holiday playlists with tracks from the album like "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" by John Mellencamp and "Christmas in Hollis" by Run-D.M.C., they looked for other songs with a similar feel, and plugged in "Christmas Wrapping." The song gradually found an audience and has remained a staple of many Christmas playlists ever since.
  • When Chris Butler wrote this song, he was not feeling very festive. The Waitresses were signed to ZE Records, whose boss, Michael Zilkha, asked the bands on his roster to each come up with a Christmas song that would go on a holiday compilation issued by the label. The Waitresses were in the middle of a grueling tour, and weren't happy about the task, especially since it was July and they weren't exactly in the Christmas spirit.

    Butler was a notorious Scrooge, so this was a particularly daunting task. He banged out the song very quickly, writing the last of the lyrics in a taxi from his apartment in New York to Electric Lady Studios, where they recorded it. The end result was a very uplifting Christmas song with a happy ending.

    "I think my subconscious wanted something to cure me of my Grinch-hood, to fabricate this story where I'm in touch with some kind of force in the background that is working for good," he told us. "It does kind of work out sometimes like this. And it's what people want. A lot of songwriting for me was fulfilling fantasies of how I wish the world was. I wish the world was a certain way, and I wish that there really was something wonderful in the background working, especially around that time, that made everything turn out okay."
  • The title does not appear in the lyrics, which made it difficult to request on radio stations. Listeners would often describe the song or sing parts of it to identify it for the DJ.
  • Most Christmas songs invoke traditions and togetherness, but this one is about a girl spending Christmas alone in New York City. Single folks spending Christmas away from their families is an under-served market when it comes to Christmas songs, unless you count the many "blue" Christmas songs about holiday heartbreak. Chris Butler had spent some Christmases alone, however, and knew what it was like. "I did have to create my own Christmas," he told us. "I put up my one stocking in my nonfunctional studio apartment in my fireplace that had been bricked up."
  • This was the third song released by The Waitresses. They were fronted by Patty Donahue, who sang in a spoken style (Donahue died on December 9, 1996 at the age of 40 after battling lung cancer for almost a year). Their previous single was "I Know What Boys Like," which was released in 1980 but didn't chart until 1982.
  • The Saturdays covered the song for the 2014 holiday movie, Get Santa.
  • The Spice Girls recorded this in 1998 as the B-side to "Goodbye."
  • In the UK, this song charted when it was first released in 1981 and has remained a holiday favorite. This is a little odd, since the song takes place in America and has references to American traditions, like eating cranberry sauce with turkey.
  • This song had a profound effect on its writer many years after it was first released. Chris Butler fell into a depression after The Waitresses broke up in 1984. "Enough time had passed that I didn't feel any connection to it either as a writer or a player," he told us. "But I swear, I kind of inadvertently paid this forward to pull me out of my funk. Because when I hear it on the radio, and I usually do at least once a year, it's when I least expect it. It's when I've got my head down and I'm grumbling my way through. Then I hear it coming out of a shoe store or something, and I go, 'All right. Lighten up. Come on, man, it's Christmas.' I swear. I get blindsided by it every time."
  • The book About A Boy (and its movie and TV show adaptations) is about a guy who lives off royalties from a Christmas song. That story isn't too far off from Chris Butler's, as this song has allowed him to "extend his adolescence." Butler says royalties from the song provide him a "comfortable middle-class return."
  • The A&P mentioned in the lyric is a chain of grocery stores in the Northeast. The song is peculiar in that our hero finds herself at a grocery store on Christmas, which can really happen in New York, but probably not at the A&P. Chris Butler envisioned the cranberry sauce run taking place at Smiler's, a 24-hour grocery in The City. He made it an A&P because it fit the line: "A&P has provided me with the world's smallest turkey."
  • Kylie Minogue and Iggy Pop recorded this for Minogue's 2015 Christmas album Kylie Christmas.
  • This was used in many holiday-themed TV episodes, including the following:

    Scream Queens ("Black Friday" - 2015)
    The Vampire Diaries ("O Come, All Ye Faithful" - 2012)
    The Office ("Christmas Wishes" - 2011)
    Glee ("Extraordinary Merry Christmas" - 2011)
    Malcolm In The Middle ("Hal's Christmas Gift" - 2004)
    Gilmore Girls ("Forgiveness And Stuff" - 2000)
    Only Fools And Horses ("Christmas Crackers" - 1981)
  • Haim released "Christmas Wrapping 2020 (All I Want for Christmas is a Vaccine)," their Hanukkah-centric take on the song. For their updated rendition of The Waitresses' holiday classic, Este, Alana, and Danielle Haim teamed up with Slave Play writer, Jeremy O. Harris, to pen new lyrics specific for 2020. From promoting small business and referencing the US election to cutting their own hair and reminding us to "stay in place," the sister trio cover every aspect of the strange year. Their interpretation also features bass by Thundercat and keys from Frank Ocean collaborator Buddy Ross.

Comments: 12

  • Ray from PhiladelphiaThese lyrics are wrong. It's "A&P has pride in me," which was A&Ps slogan in the 80s. [Hey Ray. We asked Chris Butler. He says: "It's 'provided me'... now and forever!" - editor]
  • Donny from NjError in the lyrics. It is not "And he provided me..." It is "A & P has provided me...". A & P was a large grocery store chain in the northeast. Still around but I think fewer these days.
  • Myla from San DiegoI love the bass in this song. I think it was done by Tracy Wormworth. Brillant!
  • Tom from Marietta, OhThis song is hard to follow not just because of the pace of the singing, but also because it switches back and forth repeatedly from the current time to flashbacks of the past year. Nevertheless, it is right up there in the top few of my favorite holiday songs.
  • Esskayess from Dallas, TxBest to have the lyrics in front of you when you listen to this song, because it's hard to keep up with some of what she's "wrapping."
  • Myla from San Diego, CaNow this is one Christmas song that I never get tired of! Awesome song!
  • Fred from Laurel, MdJerry, you hit it! All true! I dig this song. Is this the same bunch who did, "I Like 'em Big and Stupid"? If not the Waitresses, then it was a somewhat similar group around that time.
  • Preston from Hartford, CtI'm 44 yrs old, and i loved the song the first time i heard it back in 1981.Never understood it cuz she sings so fast..About 5yrs ago around the holidays i wake up about 3'o clock in the morning,i call the radio station & ask them to play the song because i hav'nt heard it in yrs.The dj says the one where the girls chases the guy around all year? I say is that what that song is all about? She say's yes just listen to it.I did and i said to myself this has got to be the only song i heard in my life,that takes you through all four seasons...What a great Christmas song.
  • Mike from Matawan, NjEhhhhh...it ain't bad, but The Kinks 'Father Christmas' shytte's all over this.
  • Jesse from Madison, WiOh come on, admit it - this song is GREAT! Just because it's a Christmas song and everybody hates Christmas music, and blah blah blah, Christmas music is gay and all that, it doesn't hurt to admit that you just LOVE this song because it's great. It provides a memorable sort of melody kind of thing and for whatever reason, I think about it every year around Christmas time, along with all the other Christmas songs issued by contemporary artists of the day. There once was a time when the American people adhered to annual traditions such as Christmas. Listened to Christmas music. Didn't feel gay or left out because they listened to Christmas music. Those days have been erased by the false "coolness" of MTV. I'd say "DIE MTV" but it already has. Let's take back our traditions. If it means "popular" Christmas music because you can't handle traditional Christmas music, then so be it - at least you have a start. Now what about McCartney's and Wham's and Eurythmics' (and all the others who wrote and performed Christmas songs) tunes... BUST 'EM OUT! Don't be afraid!
  • Dan from , NjRight on Jerry
  • Jerry from Brooklyn, NyThere is something bizarrely intrguing about this unusual song. It is kind of silly in some ways, yet it is also charming and touching.
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