I was 12 or so when The Waitresses’ “Christmas Wrapping” came out in 1981, but I probably didn’t hear it until 1983 or so circa 2am on the once per week late night new wave show on the mainstream rock station. This being 1983, it was not exactly a high fidelity experience, and I’d fall asleep with the single earbud in (this clock radio was NOT stereo, people) while leaving a cassette run to tape the whole thing.
I remember waking up and listening to this song for the first time and its existence made no sense to me whatsoever. First, what the hell was this Christmas song doing on my cool-ass secret new wave show? I wasn’t losing sleep on a school night to listen to dumb Christmas songs crowding out XTC and The Smiths. Next, Christmas songs were a monolith, musically. The same songs year after year after year. The rock radio station went out on a limb and played “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” but even that was a little suspect. How could such a thing as a new Christmas song even exist? Finally, I just didn’t really get the song. Who the fuck would hate Christmas? Your parents buy you shit. You don’t have to go to school. You get to hang out with your cousins at family dinner. No, not those cousins. The other cousins — the ones that weren’t weird and you didn’t hate.
Why on earth was this lady all devoted to spending Christmas alone and why was she shopping for dinner ingredients at the last minute and why wasn’t she eating with her enormous family and why didn’t her mom make her Christmas dinner and why was she going off with some rando dude from the grocery store at the end? Adult Christmas sounded weird and not very much fun.
Of course, by the time you hit your 40s or so you’re either thrilled to avoid your family because of casual racism or you like your family but hate cooking something as finicky as a turkey for 20 people or you wish you were with your family but can’t spare the money or the time to fly across the country, and suddenly a song about spending Christmas alone or, better yet, with a hot new someone all made SO MUCH SENSE.
Also, too, it took me a few years (though not all the way into my 40s) to appreciate the angular post-punk skronk of The Waitresses generally, but now that I’ve grown up and old, I listen to this Christmas song every year without fail and you probably maybe should too.