Sunday, January 17

Royal Family Christmas Traditions: Everything We Know

Christmas with the royals! The members of the British royal family have several traditions for the holiday season.

According to a royal source, Prince William and Duchess Kate, who share sons Prince George and Prince Louis and daughter Princess Charlotte, prioritize family traditions, including celebrating with Queen Elizabeth II at the monarch’s 20,000-acre estate in Norfolk, England.

“It’s important to them that their kids share childhood traditions like their school pals,” the insider told Us Weekly in December 2018. “They’re going all-out to make it extra special.”

While 2017 marked the first year that Meghan Markle attended the festivities, she and Prince Harry opted to spend Christmas with her mother, Doria Ragland, in 2019. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex traveled to California for a lengthy vacation with their son, Archie.

“The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are looking forward to extended family time towards the end of this month. Having spent the last two Christmases at Sandringham, [the couple] will spend the holiday this year, as a new family, with the duchess’ mother, Doria,” Buckingham Palace said in a statement in November 2019. “This decision is in line with precedent set previously by other members of the royal family, and has the support of Her Majesty The Queen.”

According to an insider, the twosome wanted to make Archie’s first Christmas “super special.”

“The drama surrounding the couple has caused a huge amount of stress,” the source said, referring to Harry and Meghan’s decision to take legal action against the British media and the prince’s rift with his brother, William. “They’re making their family their No. 1 priority right now.”

Harry and Meghan announced their step back from the royal family in January 2020 and permanently relocated to the U.S. in March of that year.

The royals faced additional changes in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. Amid the crisis, the queen chose to forego her usual Christmas celebrations at Sandringham Estate and her annual holiday party at Buckingham Palace.

“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 said in December 2020 of the couple, who began isolating at Windsor Castle in March 2020 as COVID-19 spread throughout the world.

Scroll through for everything we know about the royal family’s holidays:

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Traveling to Sandringham

The family traditionally spends Christmas at Sandringham House in Norfolk, England. Proving she’s Just Like Us, Queen Elizabeth II travels by train to the county estate.

James Whatling / MEGA

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Christmas Cards

The Queen and Prince Philip send roughly 750 Christmas cards each year to family, friends, members of the royal household and British government officials. William and Kate traditionally release a new family photo for the holidays as well.

Matt Porteous/Shutterstock

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The Decorations

“The Queen is not lavish, so the décor is minimal,” the queen’s former chef Darren McGrady told Good Housekeeping in 2016. “The royal family has a large Christmas tree and a large silver artificial tree in the dining room, which is about 30 years old.”

Members of the family, including the queen’s great-grandchildren, help put the finishing touches on the tree on Christmas Eve. 

Alastair Grant/AP/Shutterstock

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The Presents

The royal family exchanges presents on Christmas Eve after afternoon tea. The queen also personally hands out presents to members of her royal household at Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle. Plus, she gives Christmas puddings to her staff!

On Christmas morning, the family wakes up to stockings stuffed with small gifts and fruit at the foot of their beds.


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The Meals

The family has a formal dinner on Christmas Eve, which often includes Norfolk shrimp, lamb and a tarte tatin or soufflé. While the queen signals it’s time for the women of the family to go to bed at 10 p.m. after dinner, the men traditionally enjoy a port or brandy with Philip. 

On Christmas morning, the group eats a traditional English breakfast, which typically consists of bacon, sausages and eggs. 

After church, the family enjoys their main meal, a Christmas lunch. While the main course is roast turkey, the meal includes several side dishes and Christmas pudding. 

A source previously told Us that family members “weigh in before and after Christmas lunch.” The tradition was started by Henry VII. 

Food And Drink/Shutterstock

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Christmas Service

The family goes to St Mary Magdalene Church on Christmas morning every year. 

“The queen regards the festive season as a deeply religious occasion,” an insider previously told Us.

Tim Rooke/Shutterstock

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Boxing Day Hunt

The day after Christmas, the family enjoys a traditional feast before participating in a Boxing Day hunt. 

Grant Falvey/LNP/Shutterstock

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