December 23rd, 2008
11:07 AM ET
'Cause it is my favorite holiday (song)
The Waitresses’ "Christmas Wrapping" may be the most unlikely of Christmas tunes, a New Wave-infused song that has become a holiday standard. It's a six-minute short story of a young woman who opts to sit out the holiday season - in terms of length, practically the "American Pie" or "Stairway to Heaven" of holiday entries.
Even its origins are offbeat. In 1981, the band -– best known for "I Know What Boys Like" –- had to contribute to a Christmas album at the request of its record label president. The group was reluctant; songwriter Chris Butler even penned some of the lyrics in a cab on the way to the recording studio. In August. And the title isn’t even part of the song’s lyrics, but rather a play on words: lead singer Patty Donahue spits the lyrics out so fast, she practically raps them.
But, in an instance of life imitating art, the song -– like the guy the singer is pursuing in its lyrics - stuck around.
Throughout “Christmas Wrapping,” Donahue -– "a rough, tough girl," Butler remembered of the late singer in a 2005 interview - laments over a missed opportunity regarding a guy she’s been "chasing all year." The pair had made various attempts to go out on a date throughout the year but a number of obstacles kept them apart, namely sunburn, car trouble and scheduling woes. But (spoiler alert!) with a little Christmas magic, she runs into the guy while buying cranberries at a grocery store on Christmas Eve.
I first heard the song during the holiday season of 1995, when I was in high school working at a Gap Kids in a suburban mall. Grunge was still very much en vogue and plaid flannel covered the shelves, so the holiday mix tape that blared from our speakers was edgy as well. It included Christmas songs from the Eels, Annie Lennox, and - yes - “Christmas Wrapping.”
The song filled me with pleasure. I am a Christmas nerd. Friends say my holiday parties are "like Christmas threw up," I have to see "The Nutcracker" at Lincoln Center every year, and I even had a Christmas-themed wedding last year complete with red plaid taffeta bridesmaid dresses and candy-cane martinis.
And yet, Butler has said he wrote the song because "for years I hated Christmas." All the frenzy he saw, he said, "wasn't about joy. It was something to cope with."
Well, if "Christmas Wrapping" is Butler's proverbial "bah humbug," I'd love to hear his material after he's been visited by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future - because, ironically, while this holiday gem helped Butler express his feeling about the holidays, it helps me cope with people who don't like Christmas. So thanks, Chris, Patty and the band: “Christmas Wrapping” helps make this time of year.
- Katie McLaughlin, CNN
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Hmmm..."Blue Christmas" - the Elmer Fudd version.
How about "Reggae Christmas in Transylvania"? I heard it years ago. It's a gas. Brimming with holiday spirit.
Oh and I forgot to ad..G'ma Got Run Over by a Reindeer is one of the best songs EVER
First of all Christmas shoes is not about "no shoes, no shirt no service." Its one of the saddest Christmas songs...I listen to it when I want a release from the holiday tensions and puts things in perspective. It cannot be worse than that little boy's Christmas..buying his mama Christmas shoes to wear to Jesus's birthday party..a cute way of saying "Mama's going to heaven"...and she's leaving on Christmas Eve. The fact he could think of giving her a Christmas gift...to take with her..is something most people cannot even comprehend..its a tear jerker no matter how you look at it. I like a lot of Christmas music in small doses for that reason. A lot of them are about something we don't like to think about very often..our fellow man. A lot of them depress me. The verses below are from one I don't know the name of. Can't think of anywhere I've heard it recently but knew it when I was a kid.
In a little chapel in a village,
a small boy knelt to pray
he had nothing to give to the Holy babe
On this very special Day...
So he laid his coat on the Altar
To everyone's surprise
The church was filled with a joyful sound
The Miracle bells rang all around the town:
Hear the bells of on Christmas Day Ringing thru the land..
Let them tell of peace on Earth and
Goodwill to man.
I would have to say that my favorite is "Mary Did You Know". I get teary eyed everytime I hear it. It reminds us of the greatest gift of all, Jesus Christ, our Lord.
Chris Butler is amazing–in The Waitresses, before and after. And "Christmas Wrapping" has absolutely the best bassline in the history of ever.
My favorite is Oh Holy Night and a newer song that I did not know about until a few years ago called Mary Did You Know...I prefer the version by Clay Aiken.
Christmas Wrapping is one of my least favorite Christmas songs. I find it extremely annoying lyrically and the music is not that great.
Best Christmas Songs
White Christmas – still the best
Fairytale of NY – Pogues
Merry Christmas (I Don't Want to Fight) – Ramones
Please Come Home for Christmas – Aaron Neville
I Won't Be Home for Christmas – Blink 182
Why does this always end up a religious battle? Last time i checked this country is still free and people can believe whatever they want. I personally don't care what you believe in but don't think your gonna take away my right to pray or worship my God. Christians have been forced to defend their rights, the same things this country was founded on. If everyone would worry about themselves and what they choose to believe and leave the christians alone there wouldn't be so much fighting and controversy. As for me being so unenlightened....maybe i am. I still have the freedom to believe and worship whatever or whomever i choose! I'm so glad my children are being raised away from such close-minded people.
How bout Santa's Stuck in the Elevator? Anyone remember that one?
Not much of a classic, but in my opinion it should be!
"I hope they get him out okay... I hope to see that jolly fellow later."
Oh, and lest I forget, the immortal "No Presents For Christmas" by Mercyful Fate!!
I just hope that they ween us off from the seasonal music instead of just cold turkey.
i work retail and i hear this song nearly everyday
it's ability to work it's way into my head is horrific
why would you write an article about this
it's a cancer
Yeah, December is not my best month, mom died when I was 15 in Dec and brother died on the same day 29 years later, oh and stepmother also died in Dec...but I do it for the kids!!! This is my fav Christmas song because the music is so upbeat and I can't help but to sing along. Carol of the Bells and O Holy Night are up there too. They all touch me in a different way.
Thanks for the article. "Christmas Wrapping" is my favorite holiday song ever. The killer bass line and horns, the double-vocals, "Get this winter overwith!!!" It's brilliantly original and Steve can go listen to that cheesy Celine Dion he loves so much.
Hey Steve Scubanski: THEN DON'T READ THE ARTICLE. Sheesh. Merry Christmas.
A new Christmas song, one that fits with the times we are going through is on You Tube, called " Santa Get A Job ", by Johnny, Mark and the Ricks. Actually I think Santa might need a bailout instead of a job.
"The Night Santa Went Crazy" by 'Weird Al' Yankovic
Really stresses the craziness of the holiday season
I love this song!! A few years ago I downloaded all my favourite Christmas songs and made my own Christmas CD, people always ask for a copy when they hear it, and often single this song out as a favourite. But I have to admit that since moving to the UK I don't hear it like I used to in every store for the two months leading up to at Christmas , so maybe it's a bit more of a novelty over here!)
My favorites traditional carols are "Oh, Come, Emmanuel" and "Oh, Holy Night", but I also LOVE the Big Bad Voodoo Daddy's version of "Snow Miser / Heat miser" (if you're around my age – 43 – you know what I'm talking about!), "Christmas Time is Here" from "Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown!" and, finally, the Bare Naked Ladies' version of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen / We Three Kings". I also like the songs, "Mary, Did You Know?" and "I Wonder as I Wander" (Gary Morris), I've had about all of "My Grown Up Christmas Wish" (Natalie Cole / Kelly Clarkson) that I can handle. God bless us, every one!
"Christmas with the Family" by Robert Earl Keen is the best (and funniest) Christmas song ever. I also love "Let it Snow", especially Dean Martin's version, and "Baby, It's Cold Outside", but if you listen to the lyrics, neither one of those has anything to do with the holiday!
I have not heard that song, but when you have reached 80 years, and have just lost many important family members who made those wonderful Christmas memories with you, there are many songs to help you recall the best of times. If we lived by Gods Word the whole year and followed the Ten Commandments, this would be a better world. Peace on Earth to all Mankind!
Christmas Wrapping is my fave too thanks to you know who ;).
Happy Holidays Katie.
I completely agree... when I saw the link for the blog here on cnn.com I thought, "man, I hope they mention Christmas Wrapping"... it truly decribes my sentiments this time of year. We always look back on how things coulda, shoulda, woulda been, and nothing sums it up quite like this song... I love it! I even made a holiday mixed tape, this song and Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy (David Bowie & Bing Crosby) and all the songs from National Lampoons Christmas Vacation had to be on there!
Honestly. Humans have continued to develop over time as a natural progression of history and technology that started well before jesus came around. You cannot attribute the modern world to Jesus – its just patently absurd and ignorant to even suggest so. Did jesus give us modern medicine, computers, automobiles, astronomy, etc. etc.?No, and many advances in these fields can be attributed to people who were not christians. Its not like jesus died on the cross and suddenly the world was a happy place. It just defies fact to suggest so. You say that slavery is much less common now, so it must be because of jesus. But that ignores the fact that less than 200 years ago (1800 years after jesus's death), slavery was quite common, especially here in America. Many awful things have been committed in jesus's name. Try a little critical thought and enjoy the holiday for what it is, the winter solstice.
My favorite "pop" Xmas tune is "I Believe in Father Christmas" by ELP. Always gets me.
As for all the unenlightened people arguing about religion, you only prove that "organized" religion is what is wrong with the world. My people were celebrating "pagan" versions of this ripoff holiday when Abraham's great grandfather was in diapers. I believe in Joshua or as the Greeks called him Jesus, I have to he is a historical fact. Even pagan Rome knew that. Another fact is his birthday is around April and he was born Jewish and died Jewish. He was captured celebrating passover and was called rabbi by his followers. It doesn't make him any less great that he was a man, not a god. His teachings, uncorrupted by greedy racist sexist hateful people are great. I just wish people would realize that Dec 21-24 is a celebration of the winter solstice, that's all folks.
Oh and the whole Charlie Brown Xmas soundtrack rules!
Peace and Love to all!
P.S. The further back in time you go the better the earth was,it is a fact there where less people and therefore less evil.
Ok, never heard this song before, so I downloaded it while reading this rave review. I listened to about 1 minute of the crap spewing from my speakers and promptly deleted it. Baby it's cold outside by Dean Martin and Doris Day is "da bomb" 🙂
Christmas is just another winter festival – they've been around since looooooooooong before Christ and they'll be around loooooooooooong after people have tired of worshipping a myth. No offense. But it is quite an offense to lay the whole of human progress on one ancient man's shoulder. Progress is what makes humans human – moreso than any opposable thumb or stubborn belief in myths. The only Reason for the Season these days is that for some of us in the northern Hemisphere, this season otherwise blows. Literally.
That would be "Sleigh Ride." Guess I was caught up in the moment. Merry Christmas. 🙂
Great song. Also love the Pretenders' "2000 Miles" and Queen's "Thank God It's Christmas." Oh, and Weird Al's "The Night Santa Went Crazy."
My favorite Christmas song is the original "Sleigh Bells" as composed by Leroy Anderson.
My favorite xmas music is the "It's A Wonderful Life" EP by Fishbone. The title track is pretty much a 'Bone-d version of the movie's plot, "Slick Nick, You Devil You" features Santa sliding down the chimney with a keg of brew, "Iration" is a lilting reggae-tinged ode to spirituality, and "Just Call Me Scrooge" is self-explanatory.
All praise the Invincible Sun God Mithras on the Occasion of the Celebration of His Impending Birthday on December 25th!!!
My favorite is 'A Christmas Song' by Dave Matthews. Good lyrics accompanied by acoustic guitars. Nice.
My least favorite Christmas song: "The Christmas Shoes"
I don't like the fact that the song implies that Jesus has a "No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service" policy in heaven.
Bruce Springsteen – Santa Claus Is Comin To Town
I can't think of a better version nor a better rocking Christmas song!
Do You Hear What I Hear by Mannheim Steamroller is one of the most beautifully orchestrated music pieces.
And if you can, catch the Christmas concert by TSO. It is electrifying!
The most beautiful Christmas song ever written is "O Holy Night". No one sings it better than Michael Crawford! Go to "Youtube" and listen. If it doesn't give you chill bumps and make shed a tear, nothing will. Best with Siberian Orchestra. Barbara Osceola AR
I Want a Hippopotomus For Christmas!
Only a hippopotomus will do!
Don't want a doll or dinky Tinker Toys!
I want a hippopotomus to play with and enjoy!
The Holly and the Ivey by Manheim Steamrollers! Makes me cry. When I first start my decorating, I put that on and go into the season.
Look, anything is better than that insipid "Gramma got run over" song, or the barking dogs (which annoys the hell out of my cat...she has that "who let the dogs out?" look on her face when it comes on). My personal favorite would be John and Yoko's "Happy Xmas (War is over)" A very modern take on an ages old theme.......PEACE!
Here's to learning in '09 what we did not understand in '08. As your doctor, I am prescribing a heaping teaspoon of LOVE to all of you....now open up!
I like Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer. Lighten up people.
I have 3 favorites: White Christmas (although I hate the snow), Merry Christmas with Love and Don't Save It All for Christmas Day. Classics....all of them
"Stop the Cavalry" by the Corey Band
"Christmastime is Here" from "A Charlie Brown Christmas" (Music composed by Vince Guaraldi). Christmas Classic. American Classic. Just Classic. The show is an Emmy and Peabody Award winner, and has been aired annually since 1965. It is a True American Hoiday Tradition to watch (and listen).
A close runner up is "Linus and Lucy." Though it has transcended and become attributed as the "Peanuts Theme Song," it was originally composed and first performed for "A Charlie Brown Christmas."
"Isn't there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?" – Charlie Brown
Also my favorite X-mas song. Though I wish it didn't have the happy ending chorus of "couldn't miss this one this year". The whole reason I've liked it since I was a kid was because she said she's "sitting this one out this year" and talks about spending it quietly and alone. Which has always seemed like the best way to celebrate it. The Donnas did a pretty good re-make of this song not too long ago.
I love "Christmas Wrapping", it is my cell phone ringer every year for the month of December!
I like Silent Night, Noel, and Jingle Bell Rock. those are my favorites.
Jon, Jesus was beaten then Crucifed by the Romans and the Jews who ran the holy temple in Jersusalem, because they did not tolerate anyone who critized them.
Salvery was practised world-wide prior to the life of Jesus, now it is far more limited to a few nations. In fact it was William Wilberforce and the song Amazing Grace that helped to put an end to it in Great Britian.
Rape and the mistreatment of women is still going on, however it was Christians who are responsible for giving women a school-based education. Prior to Jesus, women were usually treated as the property of their fathers, their husbands, or as prostitutes. Little better than slaves. Given in marriage as property, instead of marrying for love to the person of their choice.
I am not going to defend the Inquistion, the Crusades, or the Church's refusal to accept the fact that the Earth is round and rotates around the Sun, items that Jesus never metioned. However, I will bring up financial aid to the poor, better medical treatment for most, food for hungry people, (as in the Miracle of loaves and fishes), non-violence methods of protest, and greater tolerance of all human beings created in the image of God.
The world has changed for the better in 2000 years, thanks to Jesus and the teachings he died for on the Cross.
Christmas Wrapping is a great song. Great hook, uptempo, uncharacteristically lacking sentimentality, and yet it has a happy ending. I've always loved it. I think all the great Christmas songs have some sense of melancholy. Some gravitas. And a good story.
I love how people think that Christ is the "reason for the season." The worship of Mithra and the winter solstice are also the "reasons for the season," and it pre-dates the worship of Christ. Christ is one of several "reasons for the season." He was born in the spring.
the way the guitar intro builds up to the beginning of the song gives me the chills (in a good goosebump of a way.)....2nd fav is carol of the bells
My favorite Christmas song is "Father Christmas" by The Kinks. In today's economy it really hits home when it says "Father Christmas, give us some money... don't mess around with those silly toys" or "give my daddy a job cause he needs one." So, just give me some money and leave all the "toys to the little rich boys."
I always thought this song was kind of tedious. I much prefer Roy Wood's Glam wall of sound masterpiece "I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday". As far as Bah Humbug songs, I like The Sparks' "Thank God It's Not Christmas" from their album "Kimono My House".
benst. did you forget Jesus was beaten to death ! Oh and the inquisition, and the crusades and prevalent slavery and rape. There was no difference in what life was like before or after "Jesus". The only thing that has progressed society is technology. And once again im not saying Jesus was not a great man, but he in no way made society a better place.
AAAAAACHHH! I HATE THIS SONG. It is most certainly not underplayed. try working in any retail or restaurant environment......you'll hear it every 22 minutes for two months
Wow, must be nice to have first hand knowledge of life 2000 years ago. As far as the planet is concerned, I believe the Bible says the animals were put here for our use. That attitude is what has led to the multitude of extinctions. If we examine religions other than Christianity, we see that many believe in living in harmony with everything in the world, not just people. The holiday season celebrates many beliefs and is for everyone, not just Christians. To think that the "reason for the season" is confined to Christianity is selfish and dare I say, un-Christianlike.
I love that song! Another classic is Father Christmas by The Kinks
Reasons to hate Christmas: traffic jams, crowded malls, rushing drivers, discourteous shoppers, even more discourteous store clerks, hours shopping for people you don't even like because "they're family and its the polite thing to do", secret santa exchanges at work for people you don't like spending the day with let alone money or thought on during your weekend, overbooked flights, out of control kids, out of control parents, circling parking lots and fighting over a parking spot. Let's not forget about people who are alone with no one to share the holiday with, people who have someone to spend it with but have to work, and of course people who have lost someone or experienced tragedy on Christmas. So I get hating Christmas. It brings out greed, jealousy, and the general worst in people.
My favorite Christmas song is O Holy Night. That to me is what Christmas is really about. The birth of Jesus is the "reason for the season". I love going to church on Christmas eve for a candle-lighting service.
People hate Christmas, because they don't know how the typical human being was treated on the planet before Jesus was born. In the last 2000 years, life on Earth has changed, mostly for the better. I doubt if the majority of people would want to trade places with people who lived in the pre-Jesus time period. If more people lived and acted in accordance with the teachings of Jesus, this planet would be a lot better for it.
Happy holidays and happy new year, everyone.
Bah! Humbug to Steve.
The song is a wonderful story and filled with Christmas spirit. Perhaps you should be, too.
Right up there with "Fairy Tale of New York" as one of my two favorites. Steve, I think you have to have been a 20 something woman to appreciate this one...no worries...
"Red plaid taffeta bridesmaid dresses"?
Are these people still your friends? I don't know if my friendships could survive something like that.
My favorite xmas music is done by a Cape Breton Musician named Duncan Wells .. He has the greatest xmas songs and stories, and has such wonderful childrens music too.. Check out this Xmas song Called " Me and Theresa underneath the mistletoe" its such a neat tune
One of my wife's and my selves favorite holiday song is Dominic the Donkey (The Italian Christmas Donkey) We just can't help but smile, laugh and sing along. Now that we have children they also love to sing along with everyone's favorite Christmas Donkey.
A song with a great story that sends a refreshing message about the Christmas season. That's why it still my favorite Christmas song as well.
My favorite holiday songs are by raisins–the California Raisins, to be exact. The album is decades old and obviously out of print, but there was a "Rudolph Rap" on there that I just loved... Santa saying "ho ho ho" instead of the 90s rap "yo yo yo"... awesome.
I look forward to hearing this song on the radio every year at Christmas. It always makes me smile.
Yeah – heard the song once, wasn't impressed. Certainly not worth writing an article about.
Hating Christmas is something people do when they think they have perspective, when in fact, they don't.
MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYBODY! (and Happy New Year!)
This is my favorite Christmas song. Thanks for the post!