Queen Elizabeth’s Christmas Traditions Are As Extra As You’d Imagine Royal Holidays To Be

If the life of a British royal is not about tradition, then nothing is. Queen Elizabeth became the British Monarch in 1952 when her father died and “has ruled for longer than any other Monarch in British History.”

The queen has been through a lot as the Queen of the United Kingdom. And, as a mother, she has always met every challenge with grace.

It is no wonder that the Queen cherishes all the comforting traditions that are part of her Christmas celebration. Here are some of her traditions.

Queen Elizabeth always attends Christmas church service

The royal family spends Christmas and New Year at her Sandringham Estate in Norfolk, England. “Sandringham House,” like Balmoral Castle in Scotland, is personally owned by Queen Elizabeth.

Other Royal Palaces where the queen has residences are held in trust by Crown Estates for future generations. When at Sandringham, the family goes to church services at St Mary Magdalene. One historic tradition that the queen does not follow at Christmas is “wearing a crown to attend a church service.”

The Queen, Duke of Edinburgh, and their family decorate the tree

Just like families everywhere that celebrate Christmas, the queen has a tree in her house. While some believe that Prince Albert started this tradition in the royal household — anyone who loves Masterpiece Theater’s Victoria remembers when he decorated the palace with Christmas trees hung from the ceiling — it was Queen Charlotte that set up the first royal Christmas trees in the 1700s.

Every year Queen Elizabeth and her family “put the finishing touches” on their tree. Additionally, every year the Queen and Prince Phillip donate Christmas trees to local schools.

This year, the royal residences have been decorated with trees in a Victorian style.

Queen Elizabeth gifts food

One tradition involves pudding: Queen Elizabeth gifts over 1,500 puddings to her staff. The British version of the pudding is nothing like the American creamy dairy dessert version. British Christmas pudding is more a cake than custard and has a long history as part of holiday celebrations.

The ingredients include dried fruit, molasses, spices, and a generous amount of liquor. Traditionally there are 13 ingredients in the pudding symbolizing Jesus and the 12 Apostles. Queen Elizabeth sends every staff member of all the palaces a Fortnum and Mason Christmas puddings.

The Queen delivers a televised Christmas Day speech

Queen Elizabeth II poses for a photo after she recorded her annual Christmas Day message.
Queen Elizabeth II | John Stillwell – WPA Pool/Getty Images

This tradition began in 1932 by King George V and has been a Christmas Day highlight for the British people ever since. There was only one year, 1969, where a “Royal Family” documentary replaced the speech. The people were so concerned about what this meant, that the Queen had to release a statement telling the public that the Christmas Day speech would return as usual the following year.

The royal family enjoys turkey on Christmas

The menu at the Sandringham Christmas celebration does not change. Having turkey on the royal table was started on Christmas Day 1875 by Albert Edward Prince of Wales, the eldest son of Queen Victoria. That year he threw an extravagant banquet aboard the Royal Navy ship the HMS Serapis. Today the turkey is the central element of the royal Christmas dinner and it always comes from the Sandringham Estate farms.

The queen receives a gift of Holy Thorn

Legend has it that Joseph of Arimathea — the man who was responsible for the burial of Jesus after the crucifixion — visited Glastonbury, England “with the Holy Grail” and thrust his staff into the ground at Wearyall Hill. It was on this spot that the original thorn tree grew. This tree blooms only twice a year which coincides with Christmas and Easter. A spring from the original thorn tree that grows in Glastonbury Abbey is sent to the Queen every Christmas.

Who attends the Royal celebration at Sandringham Estate?

The usual crew that celebrates Christmas with the Queen and Prince Philip, are her children and grandchildren and their spouses, along with her great-grandchildren. This year Meghan Markle, Prince Harry, and Baby Archie are choosing to celebrate stateside with Duchess Meghan’s mother Doria Ragland. Kate Middleton and Prince William will be in attendance with their three children.