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How Will The Royal Family Spend Christmas This Year?

The royals might have to give some of their traditions a miss this year.

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By Bustle UK
Updated: 
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Members of Queen Elizabeth's immediate family, like Prince William and Kate Middleton, for example, are expected to take part in many Christmas traditions as a family. But as this year is bound by coronavirus restrictions, Christmas at the Windsors is expected to be a whole lot different.

Normally, the royal family would descend en masse to the Sandringham estate for the festive period. However, this year, it’s reported that the Queen and Prince Philip will instead enjoy their Christmas quietly at Windsor instead.

"Having considered all the appropriate advice, the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh have decided that this year they will spend Christmas quietly in Windsor," a Buckingham Palace spokesperson revealed. This is the first time in 33 years that a royal Christmas will not be enjoyed at Sandringham.

It is so far unclear whether these festivities will include other members of the royal family. But, like the rest of the nation, the Queen, 94, and Prince Philip, 99, will have to think carefully about who to invite into their Christmas bubble this year if they do indeed see anyone. Under the current relaxation of government restrictions over the festive period, three households can mix from December 23 to 27 if the bubble doesn’t change over the five-day period, meaning mixing with other households is not allowed.

It is reported that on Christmas Day, the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall will be at Highgrove. However, they are expected to have a chance to see the Queen and Philip at Windsor at some point over the five day period.

This still leaves one other household the Queen could potentially bubble up with over the festive period — and there are a number of options.

She could spend the festive period with her only daughter, the Princess Royal, and her husband, as Princess Anne rarely fails to attend a public royal gathering at Christmas.

Prince Edward along with his wife the Countess of Wessex, and their two children Lady Louise Windsor, 17, and James, Viscount Severn, 12, would also be a good option for combining households.

Prince William and family could spend the day with his grandparents, as two households, however the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge may choose to bubble up for Christmas with the Middleton family in Berkshire this year as they have spent the past few years with the royals. The Duchess also has two siblings, Pippa Matthews and James Middleton, so whether they’re planning on spending Christmas with their parents is another potential roadblock.

Elsewhere, Prince Harry and Meghan are expected to celebrate Christmas in sunny Los Angeles with baby Archie where they are spending their first Thanksgiving as a family. A decision which could be attributed to U.S. travel restrictions and continued social distancing measures.

While the family’s seasonal schedule will be subject to major changes this year, here are a few ways the royals typically spend Christmas:

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 Queen's country estate in Norfolk. They started spending the holidays there back in 1988. The Queen and Prince Philip are usually joined by Prince Harry (and now Markle), Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, Prince William, Kate Middleton (although they sometimes spend the holidays with Middleton's parents), Peter Philips and his wife Autumn, Zara Philips and her husband Mike Tindall, and their grandchildren.

They play a football game on Christmas Eve

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According to reports, a Christmas Eve football game has become another holiday tradition for the family. Supposedly, Princes William and Harry place the game each year with workers from the Sandringham Estate. They wear the socks of their favourite teams, and the other family members watch.

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. According to Popsugar, the former royal chef, Darren McGrady, has said that the family's favourite tea item is the "jam penny," which is a sandwich cut into circles the size of an old English penny.

They exchange gag gifts during tea instead of anything expensive

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The royal family also uses their tea time to exchange their gifts. All members of the royal household get a gift from the Queen. According to reports, the royals give each other joke gifts rather than anything expensive and luxurious. Popsugar says that Prince Philip once received a light-up pepper mill, and Harry once gave the Queen a shower cap that said, "Ain't Life a B*tch!"

The Queen gives gifts to her staff

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According to the royal family, Queen Elizabeth gives Christmas pudding to her staff every year. About 1500 Christmas puddings get paid for by the Queen, then are distributed to the staff throughout the palaces, the staff in the Court Post Office, and Palace police. Each pudding is given with a greeting card from the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh. It's a tradition she took on from her father, King George VI, and her grandfather, George V.

They attend two services on Christmas Day

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According to the royal family, the Queen and members of the royal family attend the morning service on Christmas Day at St. Mary Magdalene in Sandringham, a country church that was visited by the Queen's great-great grandmother Queen Victoria, dating back to the 16th century. This is a private service so the Queen can take communion. After a change of clothes, they attend a public service at 11 A.M.

They all enjoy Christmas lunch together

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After their church services, the family gets together for a big lunch - probably one of the best parts of the holiday! McGrady told Good Housekeeping that this 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. They stick with the same meal year after year."

The Queen gives her Christmas speech

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After lunch, the entire family sits down to watch the Queen give her annual Christmas speech, which airs at 3 p.m. U.K. time. Afterwards, they play games or go outside to get some exercise.

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. McGrady told Good Housekeeping that after having fruitcake with tea, they have a "buffet dinner with 15-20 different items. It's always a buffet with the chefs at the table carving. They don't do appetizers 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.