How Will The Royal Family Spend Christmas This Year?

The death of Queen Elizabeth II brought changes to the monarchy's annual festive traditions.

by Bustle UK
Originally Published: 
King Charles III, Camilla, Queen Consort, Prince William, and Kate Middleton.
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The past year has been one of significant change for the royal family. On Sept. 8, Her Majesty The Queen, Elizabeth II, died peacefully at the age of 96. The Queen’s passing marked the end of the second Elizabethan Age, ushering in a new era with King Charles III at the helm of the British monarchy. With updated titles and newly-designed coins and banknotes, we’ve already witnessed a great deal of change within the royal sphere, and these changes will likely extend to how the monarchy celebrates the festive season. But, how does the royal family spend Christmas?

This year, senior royals kicked off the first yuletide celebrations without Queen Elizabeth II on Dec. 15 at the second annual Royal Carols: Together at Christmas service at Westminster Abbey. Those in attendance included King Charles, the Queen Consort, and the Prince and Princess of Wales, who were joined by two of their three children, Prince George and Princess Charlotte.

Meanwhile, King Charles will host his first annual Christmas lunch as monarch on Tuesday, Dec. 20. As the Daily Mail notes, this royal family gathering is usually held at Buckingham Palace before senior royals head off to Sandringham. However, breaking with tradition, the King has opted to host this year’s festive lunch at Windsor Castle, instead.

The lunch will reportedly be attended by “wider” members of the family, including Princess Anne’s son-in-law, Mike Tindall, who recently disclosed on Good Morning Britain that he expects to discuss his appearance on I’m a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here! with other royals during the Christmas season. “There’s some sense of humour kicking around in the [royal] family, so I’ll wait for some interesting gifts and see how many people were watching,” Tindall revealed.

Although King Charles has broken with at least one royal festive tradition, Buckingham Palace confirmed on Dec. 19 that His Majesty and the Queen Consort will host senior royal family members at Sandringham Estate this Christmas.

Although the monarchy’s festivities will be quite different in light of the Queen’s death, many yuletide traditions will likely stay in place — and you can find some of the ways the royal family typically spends Christmas, below.

They always spend the holidays at Sandringham House

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It's tradition for the royal family to spend both Christmas and New Year's at Sandringham House, the King’s country estate in Norfolk. They started spending the holidays there back in 1988, and senior members of the royal family, including Prince William and Kate Middleton, are usually invited to attend.

They play a football game on Christmas Eve

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According to reports, a Christmas Eve football game became another festive tradition for the family. Supposedly, Princes William and Harry played the game each year with workers from the Sandringham Estate, wearing the socks of their favourite teams. However, amid the brothers’ highly-publicised feud — which was documented in Netflix’s Harry & Meghan — it's safe to assume the Duke of Sussex won’t be partaking anytime soon.

They have tea together on Christmas Eve

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On Christmas Eve, the family has tea together in the White Drawing Room at Sandringham. As per the Express, the tradition dates back to Queen Victoria, and according to the royal expert, Robert Jobson, the family has “done it every year since” her reign.

They exchange gifts on Christmas Eve

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During their annual Christmas Eve tea at Sandringham, the royal family also exchange gifts — opting for the German tradition of opening presents ahead of the big day itself. Although surrounded by opulence, the family reportedly gift each other humorous presents that aren’t particularly pricey.

They attend two services on Christmas Day

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Senior members of the royal family attend a morning church service on Christmas Day at St. Mary Magdalene in Sandringham — a country church that was also visited by Queen Victoria, dating back to the 16th century. This is a private service so the monarch can take communion. After a change of clothes, they later attend a public service at 11 a.m.

They all enjoy Christmas lunch together


After their church services, the family gets together for a Christmas lunch. Speaking to Good Housekeeping, former royal chef Darren McGrady revealed that the lunch includes “salad with shrimp or lobster, and a roasted turkey, and all of your traditional side dishes like parsnips, carrots, Brussels sprouts and Christmas pudding with brandy butter for dessert.” He added, “They stick with the same meal year after year."

They end Christmas Day by having a big dinner together


Finally, the royal family ends Christmas day the way many of us do: by having a big dinner together. Chef Darren McGrady told Good Housekeeping that after enjoying fruitcake with tea, they have a “buffet dinner with 15 to 20 different items.” He continued, “It's always a buffet with the chefs at the table carving. They don't do appetisers on Christmas like many do here in the U.S. Instead, appetizers and canapes are reserved for New Year's Eve.”

Contributions from Jessica Booth, Rebecca Fearn, Orla Pentelow, Sam Ramsden, and Sophie McEvoy.

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