For the Royal Family, Christmas begins with a lunch at Buckingham Palace – held last Wednesday – before they depart for Sandringham, the Queen’s country estate in Norfolk, where they traditionally spend the festive period and New Year.
During the sixties, when Her Majesty’s children were small, many Christmases were celebrated at Windsor Castle, where the Royal Family spends Easter. But since 1988, when the castle was being rewired, Royal Christmases returned to Sandringham.
Most of the senior royals are expected to be present at the Sandringham Estate get-together this year, including the Queen; the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge together with their three children Prince George, 6, Princess Charlotte, 4, and Prince Louis, 19 months old; and Prince Charles and Duchess Camilla.
Prince Philip will likely also be in attendance. The 98-year-old spend a four night stay at the King Edward VII hospital in London before leaving earlier today.
This year, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, who welcomed the arrival of their first child, Archie Harrison Mountbatten Windsor, in May this year, will not be joining the Royal Family Christmas celebrations. They have decided to spend their first Christmas as a family privately in Canada instead, after having spent the previous two Christmases at Sandringham. It is believed they will be together with Meghan’s mother, Doria Ragland.
“Having spent the last two Christmases at Sandringham, their royal highnesses will spend the holiday this year, as a new family, with the duchess’ mother Doria Ragland,” a spokesperson told Sky News in November.
Royal Family Christmas
On Christmas Eve, the royals will make the final finishing touches to the Christmas tree, before laying out their presents on trestle tables. Gifts are exchanged on Christmas Eve instead of the day itself, because the Royal Family are of German descent, so they weave in those traditions to their celebrations.
Presents are not of the extravagant kind. Instead family members are encouraged to buy each other something cheap and humorous.
In previous years, Prince Harry reportedly gifted the Queen an ‘ain’t life a bitch’ bath hat, while the Duchess of Cambridge gave Harry a ‘grow-your-own girlfriend’ kit (of course, this was in the pre-Meghan Markle era). Princess Diana apparently didn’t get the memo during her first Christmas with the royals and reportedly bought Princess Anne a cashmere jumper.
Continuing the tradition from her father, King George VI and her grandfather, George V, Her Majesty also gives Christmas puddings to her staff. About 1500 Christmas puddings paid for by the Queen (through the Privy Purse) are distributed to staff throughout the Palaces, staff in the Court Post Office and Palace police. Each pudding is accompanied by a greeting card from the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh.
As well as donating money to several charities in Windsor each Christmas, Her Majesty also gives Christmas trees each year to Westminster Abbey, St. Paul’s Cathedral, St. Giles’ Cathedral and the Canongate Kirk in Edinburgh. Churches and schools in the Sandringham area also receive a tree.
William and Harry – in the years he has been present – usually take part in a Christmas Eve game of football with household staff and there is also a black-tie dinner, which requires suits, evening gowns and tiaras.
On Christmas Day, the Royal Family attend a church service at St Mary Magdalene, Sandringham, a country church visited by the Queen’s Great-Great Grandmother Queen Victoria, which dates back to the 16th century.
Her Majesty usually also attends an earlier communion in private.
The royals tuck into a traditional turkey lunch with all the trimmings, before sitting down to watch the Queen’s speech at 3pm, which is recorded earlier in the year.
Former royal household member Alexandra Messervy revealed the royals love to play charades when they get together at Christmas.
She told Yahoo UK‘s The Royal Box: “They enjoy a bit of a giggle, they have a tremendous sense of humour.
“Great fans of charades, they’ve always played charades.”
Many members of the family also take part in the annual Boxing Day pheasant shoot on the estate.