What It’s Really Like to Spend Christmas With the British Royal Family
Ever wonder how the British royal family celebrates the holidays? Surprisingly enough, they have somewhat normal Christmas traditions. From the gifts they give to the way they spend their Christmas Eve, we share what it’s really like to spend Christmas with the Queen and her family, ahead.
1. No presents on Christmas Day
You won’t see the royal family opening presents on Christmas Day. Instead, they open gifts from one another in the Red Drawing Room on Christmas Eve. In fact, most of their Christmas traditions occur on Dec. 24.
2. Gag gifts only
What do you buy a family that has it all? Gag gifts! Instead of exchanging nice, expensive gifts, members of the royal family give each other humorous — and sometimes inappropriate — gifts. Before Meghan Markle came along, Kate Middleton once gifted Prince Harry a plastic Grow Your Own Girlfriend. And Prince Harry gave the Queen a shower cap that read: “Ain’t Life a B*tch!”
3. Christmas is celebrated at Sandringham Estate
While Buckingham Palace can fit much more people in it, the Queen prefers to spend Christmas at Sandringham Estate. And while it may seem large to you, there aren’t enough rooms to house everyone, so some of the family members have to sleep in the staff quarters. Even the royal family crams together for the holidays!
4. The Queen must spend one whole week planning
There’s no denying that Christmas is the Queen’s favorite holiday. In fact, she loves it so much that she insists on planning the festivities herself and carves out an entire week’s worth of time to get everything ready for her family members.
5. The rest of the royal family arrives by train on Christmas Eve
Once the Queen is ready, the rest of her family joins her on Christmas Eve. And, get this: They arrive by royal train.
6. Prince William and Prince Harry play soccer
It wouldn’t be the holidays without sports, and the royal family agrees! Prince Harry and Prince William in particular enjoy a soccer match on Christmas Eve while other members of the royal family watch.
7. Christmas Eve dinner doesn’t start until 8:30 p.m.
If you happen to be invited for Christmas Eve dinner at Sandringham Estate, don’t expect to eat an early dinner. Christmas Eve dinner typically starts at around 8:30 p.m..
8. No garlic in Christmas dinner
The British royal family has quite the laundry list of food rules. One of the biggest rules? No garlic. The Queen is not a fan, therefore garlic is not allowed in Christmas dinner.
9. It’s the one time a year the Queen allows the head chef to have a drink with the royal family
Christmas Eve dinner is a special occasion for the royal head chef — it’s the one time a year the Queen allows them to have a drink (and lead the toast) with the royal family.
10. Christmas lunch is a bigger deal than Christmas dinner
On Christmas Day, the royal family indulges in a big turkey lunch vs. a Christmas dinner.
11. After lunch, the Queen films her annual Christmas message
After lunch, the royal family heads to the White Drawing Room for some afternoon tea while the Queen tends to her royal duties: Filming her annual Christmas message to the good people of Britain.
12. They enjoy jam penny sandwiches at tea time
During tea time, the family enjoys light bites. One of their favorites? Jam penny sandwiches. Cut into old English penny-sized circles, these tiny sandwiches are a must.
13. The children add the last few decorations to the tree
In addition to tea time, the children of the royal family — including the Queen’s grandchildren — get to add the last few decorations to the family’s Christmas tree.
14. Church on Christmas day
On Christmas Day, the family enjoys an early breakfast together, then heads to the church of St. Mary Magdalene for a private service at 9 a.m.. Then, the family heads back to Sandringham Estate to change (their private service has a more relaxed dress code) and attends a public service at 11 a.m..
15. Movie night
After church and Christmas lunch, the family partakes in an even more normal Christmas tradition: movie night. Only, their movie night takes place in the ballroom at Sandringham Estate, which just so happens to house a collection of bladed weapons.
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