Like many families around the world, the royals have their own unique set of Christmas customs. Every December, the Windsors make an annual trip to the Queen’s Sandringham Estate, where they celebrate the festive season. They play pick-up games of charades and football—and have black-tie dinners, naturally. They even honour their German heritage each year when they exchange gifts. Of course, given the ongoing pandemic, things may look a little different this year (both for the royals and everyone else), but keeping that in mind, read on for 12 Christmas traditions that Queen Elizabeth and her family always try to honour.
1. The Queen throws a Christmas luncheon at Buckingham Palace
Most years, the week leading up to Christmas means one thing in particular: the Queen hosts her annual luncheon. But before you get your best outfit ready, the affair is for extended members of the family and it’s held at Buckingham Palace. And while we generally don’t get to see what happens, there are often photos of the family going to and from to look forward to, such as this picture of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge with their son Prince George and the Duke of Sussex en route to said occasion.
2. Members of the family host Christmas parties throughout the season
As we all know, members of the royal family serve as patrons to many charities, and during the holidays in particular, they go out of their way to support the causes closest to their hearts by throwing Christmas parties.
3. They send annual Christmas cards to well-wishers around the world
4. The Queen takes a train to Sandringham Estate
The Windsors typically spend the holidays at their home in Sandringham, just 100 miles north of London. But not only that: every year, the Queen marks the occasion by traveling by train to King’s Lynn Station in Norfolk.
This photo here was taken in 2017. Sadly, Prince Philip passed away earlier this year at the age of 99.
5. They play football
Popsugar reports that Prince William and Prince Harry used to play a Christmas Eve game of football on the Sandringham Estate alongside members of the staff. Team William reportedly wore Aston Villa socks while Team Harry wore Arsenal apparel.
Of course, Prince Harry isn’t likely to be at Sandringham this year, as he now lives in the U.S. with the Duchess of Sussex Meghan and his children, so it’s unclear if the traditional game will continue in his absence.
6. The Queen donates to local charities in Windsor every year
In addition to the Queen’s donations, the royal family’s website reveals that the monarch gives Christmas trees to Westminster Abbey, St. Paul’s Cathedral, St. Giles’ Cathedral and the Canongate Kirk in Edinburgh. The page also vaguely states that “churches and schools in the Sandringham area will also receive a tree from Her Majesty.”
7. They attend a black-tie dinner on Christmas Eve
8. The Queen has multiple Christmas trees
Three fir trees are brought to the Marble Hall in Buckingham Palace each year. And this tradition goes way back, in fact, it was popularised in the nineteenth century by Queen Elizabeth’s great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria.
As former royal chef Darren McGrady explained to Good Housekeeping, the royal family also has a large Christmas tree and a large silver artificial tree in the dining room at Sandringham. The Queen even lets her great-grandchildren help decorate.
9. Gifts are exchanged on Christmas Eve
According to McGrady, the Windsors honour their German heritage by opening presents after afternoon tea on Christmas Eve instead of on Christmas Day.
10. The whole family attends Christmas services together
Each year on Christmas Day, the Queen is joined by her family for a church service at St. Mary Magdalene on the Sandringham Estate.
11. They play a game of charades on Christmas Day
The Windsors reportedly assemble for a matchup of charades every year after Christmas lunch.
12. The Queen makes an annual Christmas broadcast
Every year since 1952, the Queen has given an annual Christmas broadcast to the Commonwealth, in which she reflects on the past year and looks ahead to the future. Since 1957, the broadcast has been televised, and the whole royal family is said to watch it together on Christmas Day.
From Harper’s Bazaar UK