The Epic Way Queen Elizabeth Starts Every Christmas

Who says Queen Elizabeth doesn’t like a good party? Each year, the royals gather at the family’s Sandringham estate to celebrate Christmas, and she apparently starts the holiday season in epic fashion. Here is a look at the way Her Majesty kicks off every Christmas, plus several other royal family traditions they have picked up over the years.

Queen Elizabeth
Queen Elizabeth | Photo by John Stillwell – WPA Pool/ Getty Images

The epic way Queen Elizabeth starts Christmas

Queen Elizabeth’s Sandringham Estate has been in the family since the 1800s and has been used as an annual retreat for generations. Every year, Her Majesty invites the top members of the royal family to celebrate the holidays at her estate.  

Once everyone has arrived for the Christmas festivities, the royals engage in a number of different traditions, including the surprising way Queen Elizabeth starts the party.

According to Vine Pair, Queen Elizabeth begins every Christmas with a cocktail, which she drinks before anyone is allowed to exchange gifts. The gift exchange happens on Christmas Eve instead of Christmas Day, a practice that originated with the German side of the family.

“I think the queen likes a martini, other people would rather have Champagne,” royal expert Ingrid Seward revealed. “Prince Philip isn’t a great drinker, he always used to drink pale ale.”

Seward did not say what kind of martini Queen Elizabeth prefers, but it is a safe bet that gin is involved. We also do not know if Her Majesty indulges in more than one martini on Christmas Eve, but the family’s grand buffet the next morning probably helps with any hangover issues.

What else does Her Majesty do on Christmas?

Martinis aside, Queen Elizabeth partakes in a surprising number of Christmas traditions every year. This includes decorating the Christmas tree with lights and ornaments.  

The royals have had a Christmas tree in the house since the 18th century, though Queen Elizabeth has taken things a step further and decorates it herself. When the rest of the family arrives, they help put on the final ornaments.

Speaking of Christmas trees, Her Majesty donates a bunch of trees to local schools in Sandringham. She also gifts Christmas trees to several churches around the region, including St. Giles’ Cathedral in Edinburgh and St. Paul’s Cathedral in London.

The royals, of course, also donate a lot of money to charities throughout the U.K. during the holidays and even hold a Christmas reception at Buckingham Palace for the country’s top diplomats.

What does the Queen give her staffers?

When it comes to her staffers, Queen Elizabeth makes sure they enjoy a Christmas pudding from Fortnum and Mason. She usually purchases around 1,500 of the delicious treats every year in a tradition that dates all the way back to Queen Victoria.

Each staff member gets around three puddings each. The gift also comes with a special card from Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip.

The only catch is that each member of Queen Elizabeth’s staff receives their gift according to their rank. Her Majesty is also on hand to shake everyone’s hands and thank them for their continued service to the monarchy.

Queen Elizabeth and Philip also send out Christmas cards every year. The couple mails thousands of signed cards, all of which go to leaders around the world.

Inside Queen Elizabeth’s Christmas Day speech

While most of the royal family’s Christmas traditions happen behind closed doors, they always attend a church service on Christmas Day. This is one of the few times of the year where fans can catch a glimpse of the royals in one place, though Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will not be in attendance this year.

After the church service, the Queen gives her annual Christmas Day speech, which is a tradition that was started in the 1930s by King George V.

Queen Elizabeth has only broken this annual tradition once during her reign. In 1969, Her Majesty played a documentary about the royals instead of giving a speech. The move did not go over well with fans, so she went back to the speech and has been doing it ever since.

There is no telling what Queen Elizabeth will talk about this year, but between Brexit and all the drama in the royal family, it will be something to watch this Christmas.