The definition of a ‘sleeper’ hit would be one that over a long period of time becomes a big success, despite having relatively little promotion or not having a successful beginning. And if there’s a Christmas sleeper hit, then that title has got to go to ‘Christmas Wrapping‘ by the Waitresses.
The Waitresses (read more about them on Wiki and a more in-depth article via Consequence of Sound), hailed from Akron, Ohio and were part of the American new-wave scene of the early 1980s. ‘Christmas Wrapping’ was their only hit in the UK, reaching no.45 in 1982 (see here for proof, if you’re so inclined), and yet over the years has become hugely popular and recognised, appearing on numerous compilations. I first heard it in the late 1990s, when it was still relatively unknown (at first I thought with the almost wrapping it was Blondie. Close but no cigar – the only link to CBGBs is that Television drummer Billy Ficca was the Waitresses’ drummer). The Spice Girls covered it as a b-side (you can seek it out, I’m sure) and the latest version is Kylie Minogue covering it with Iggy Pop for for her Christmas album, Kylie Christmas.
Here, for NME, the band’s Chris Butler talks about the song:
And as a bonus, here’s the Kylie and Iggy version: