When Christmas approaches, I get happy as a child. I dream of time off, spent lying lazily on the sofa wrapped in a fluffy blanket. No commitments, no places where I have to go, only a warm green tea with honey and a favourite feel-good movie. Maybe a cinnamon-scented candle and a sparkling Christmas tree.
And I love to take my time wrapping presents while listening to soothing music. I often do it imperfectly, and that’s OK.
In the past couple of years, I started to be more conscious about the things I buy. Trying to shop less, looking for ethical and sustainable products, choosing second-hand whenever possible.
I have not yet – and maybe never will – got to the point when I stop making Christmas presents, though. I don’t want to give up the little sparkle of joy in the eyes of the people I love. And giving is good for the giver’s health and happiness, too.
This year, I’m thinking of new ways to give presents. I’ll stay clear from shopping malls and the suffocating sensation my highly sensitive self gets from a visit there. Instead, I’m going to play with recycled materials, creativity and… languages, of course. Making presents this way truly becomes a way to take care of yourself and others around you, doesn’t it?
Good for the planet, good for the heart and good for the brain.
Let’s have a look at a few simple Christmas presents ideas for (and from) quiet language lovers. Do you have any ideas to add? I’d like to try something new, so let me know in the comments!
The crafty gift: book page candle holder
The first time I saw this candle holder, I fell in love. So simple, yet so pretty!
All you need is an old glass jar, a couple of pages from a book, a ribbon, scissors, vinyl glue and a tea candle. Cut a shape in the middle of the pages you’re going to use, then use vinyl glue to paste it on the outside of the jar. Add another layer of glue over the paper and let it rest for 6-8 hours to make sure it dries properly. Tie the ribbon around the top and add the candle – voilà!
I must say, it breaks my heart a bit to cut out pages from a book. If you don’t have the courage to sacrifice an old volume, you can print out a couple of pages. You could also use a copy from a textbook for extra language nerdiness. Of course, if the receiver of the gift is studying a language, it would be extra nice to make one from a book in that language.
The musical gift: make a playlist
Confession time: I am the kind of person who used to make music tapes for an unrequited love. When I was in high school, I had a crush for a boy from a different class. One day I recorded a cassette with songs that meant something to me – I remember Drunken Butterfly by Sonic Youth was in it. I sneaked into his classroom after the end of the lesson and left it on his desk.
How did it go? Just like your regular teenage crush – not worth mentioning.
The point is, music is a present that comes from the heart. And these days, YouTube and Spotify make your life way easier. If you know someone who is learning a language, why not make a personalized playlist? They will appreciate the time and effort you put into choosing beautiful sounds in their target language(s).
And as an early Christmas present from me, here are some of my personal multilingual playlists on Spotify:
- #SongsinLanguage: a big and growing collection of songs that are not in English;
- A language lover’s playlist: a playlist with 90 songs in 36 languages I made for Christmas last year;
- Music på
svenska: a big playlist with songs in Swedish;
- Musique en français: songs in French (not only from France), modern and classic;
- Italiano: some Italian music, mostly old stuff I used to listen to from my teenage years to my early 20s;
- íslenska: tiny playlist with cool music in Icelandic;
- 日本語: tiny playlist in Japanese – unfortunately, not a lot of Japanese classics are on Spotify;
- Español: songs in Spanish (without distinctions: Castellano, Catalan, Spanish from South America all in one);
- Português: songs in Portuguese (both European and Brazilian).
The writer’s gift: write a thoughtful card
Do you have a way with words and friends who speak one of your target languages (or are learning your native language)? Then picking a cute or fun card and writing a loving wish could be a good Christmas idea.
These days, we don’t get a lot of letters in our (physical) mailbox, and that’s a shame. It’s such a beautiful thrill to get a handwritten message. I miss the joy of finding a letter with my name on it – not from the tax office, that is. Carefully open it, read the words that someone traced just for me. It makes me feel special and fills me with a good kind of nostalgia.
It truly is a way to rekindle the bond with a far away friend.
And if you’re also a bit artsy, then you can combine this idea with the next one.
The artsy gift: a language painting
Do you like to express yourself with art? Are your friends praising your talent all the time? I’m sure they would love to receive a work of art you created with them in mind.
To add a language theme to it, you can use a quote, a poem, the lyrics of a song to write on your painting. Not only it will add beauty to a room, but also be a source of motivation and a visual reminder to make contact with the language.
The language-loving receiver will be delighted.
The teacher’s gift: personalised learning materials
Are you a teacher – or do you have a bit of teaching gene in you? Do you know someone learning your native language, or one you learned to an advanced level? Time to put your skills at the service of Santa Claus.
A few things dry one’s motivation more than boring, generic learning materials. I surely did sigh in frustration more than a few times, wishing the author of a textbook knew anything about my interests. You can help a loved one have the best time studying by creating a mini learning resource, or a few exercises, based on something they like. It can be a nerdy series of novels, an indie song, a classic movie or even their lives. Be creative!
Oh, and did I mention that creating some learning materials in a language you’re studying is an amazing way to practice and strengthen your knowledge? It’s a win-win.
The foodie’s gift: letter cookies
I don’t know about you, but my love for cookies hasn’t changed a bit with adulthood. It might have actually grown stronger, as I have fewer chances to eat freshly baked ones – unless I bake them myself.
I’m sure some of the language lovers of your heart are also cookie lovers. And would they not be glad to receive a box of home baked-letter cookies? You can play foodie Scrabble together if you resist the temptation for long enough.
People who learn languages with a different script could also get their share – what about kanji cookies?
The busy person’s gift: give time
Often, we are forced to take away the most precious gift from the people around us: our time. We wear busyness as a badge of honour, our default answer to “How are you?” is “Tired”. We take for granted this is how things are supposed to be, and we neglect our family and dear ones without almost realising.
One truly precious present you can give for Christmas this year is your time. An hour, a day, a weekend of your undivided attention to do something together.
I like to draw silly vouchers and give them to people. You can create your own: a voucher for a one-hour language exchange, a voucher for watching a movie together, a voucher for reading bedtime stories or a trip to a museum.
In a language, or two, or three.