How Does The Royal Family Spend Christmas? Meghan Markle Will Experience These Age-Old Traditions Over The Holiday
It's no secret that the British royal family does pretty much everything differently than the rest of us "normal" people do. They follow a set of guidelines for their every day life which affect everything from what they wear to how they can sit down to what they can and cannot eat when traveling. While these said to be more of a suggestion than a hard and fast rule, it's pretty clear that members of the royal family take them seriously regardless — just think about the way Meghan Markle's style changed when she married Prince Harry. Because these guidelines affect their whole lives, it makes sense that it affects their holiday season as well. There are some requirements for how the royals spend Christmas, but honestly, these sound more fun than restricting.
Not surprisingly, the royals can't just spend the holiday however they want. Members of Queen Elizabeth's immediate family, like Prince William, Kate Middleton, Prince Harry, and Markle, are expected to take part in many Christmas traditions as a family. But even that seems to be changing a little, as the royal family becomes a bit more modern. This year, it's been reported that the Queen invited Markle's mother, Doria Ragland, to celebrate Christmas with them. This would be the first time a non-royal will spend the night in the family's estate, and according to a source via The Daily Mail, is a "mark of [the queen's] respect" for Markle. The royal family has yet to comment on the rumors.
That just might be the only change in the family's holiday traditions. Here are a few ways the royals typically spend Christmas:
They always spend the holidays at Sandringham House
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 soccer game on Christmas Eve
According to reports, a Christmas Eve soccer 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 socks of their favorite teams, and the other family members watch.
They have tea together on Christmas Eve
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 favorite 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
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 funny gag 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
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
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
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
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 the Christmas holiday 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."