For many of us, Christmas signals a time to switch off, unwind, eat copious amounts of ham, drink a lot of rosé, and nap. But over the pond in the United Kingdom, it’s a completely different story. Yep, Christmas with the British royal family is a serious production and every item on the festive agenda runs to a perfectly-timed schedule.
In terms of celebrations, the queen’s annual gathering at her private country castle, Sandringham House in Norfolk, are like the Hunger Games of Christmas shindigs, drenched in rigid formalities, strict protocol and a lot of mingling and polite small talk with senior members of the British monarchy. A very merry and intense Christmas, indeed!
But, once the official formalities are out of the way, Queen Elizabeth loves nothing more than spending time with her loved ones, tucking into the eggnog, and having a laugh.
This year, things may look slightly different than what we’ve grown accustomed to in recent years. Prince Harry and Meghan are set to forgo the UK festivities and will instead spend the festive day in the United States with son Archie and Meghan’s mom Doria Ragland.
But never fear, there’s still plenty of royal spectacles to look forward to over the coming weeks as Christmas approaches.
From the weird, wild, and charmingly wonderful, as we countdown to Christmas 2019, here are the best Royal Family Christmas traditions of all time.
The schedule is INSANE.
A jam-packed calendar of socializing kicks off with a black-tie dinner at Sandringham, Norfolk on Christmas Eve with key royal family members including Prince Charles, Duchess Camilla, the queen, Prince Philip, Prince William, Kate Middleton, Prince Harry, and Meghan Markle all in attendance. Men suit up while women don designer gowns and apparently their best bling and tiaras!
Christmas morning starts with a full English breakfast before the clan, led by the queen, heads to church for a morning service at St. Mary Magdalene, followed by a 50-minute lunch, before gathering around the TV to watch the queen’s pre-recorded Christmas message at 3 p.m. on the dot.
If you’re thinking of sleeping in the next day, forget about it because there’s a round of pheasant shooting on Boxing Day.
They don’t open their presents on Christmas day.
Christmas is always best lived through the eyes of a child and for Prince George, six, Princess Charlotte, four, and one-year-old Prince Louis, who will be ringing in his first royal Christmas, the little ones will get to open their presents on Christmas Eve with their loved ones.
The reason they get to dig into their stocking the night before Christmas is thanks to the German heritage. As per German tradition — and many European cultures — families open their presents on December 24, and it seems this habit has stuck for the British Royals.
“On Christmas Eve, the Royal Family lay out their presents on trestle tables and will exchange their gifts at teatime,” their official website explains.
The Queen’s Speech
Every year without fail, the queen addresses the world delivering them a message of hope and peace.
The queen’s speech also gives the public a chance to a peek inside one very decked out and festive Buckingham Palace.
The royal Christmas Day message has been a staple of British broadcasting ever since George V first took to the radio in 1932.
While the queen’s main job is to remain impartial to political matters, her annual Christmas speech is the one time of year she can express her thoughts outside of the government’s control.
It’s also a time of reflection as the queen looks back at her family’s own personal milestones, from royal babies, to royal weddings — 2018 has been a cracking year for the Windsors and we can’t wait to see how the queen addresses all their triumphs.
In fact, the 93-year-old takes great pride in writing the speech herself.
Royal Christmas Cards
As the year comes to an end, our favorite family often release a Christmas photo to thank the public for their support. And for many avid royal watchers around the world, it’s not really Christmas until Prince William, Kate, and their angelic children pose for their annual festive photo.
Fingers crossed they release a new shot this year with their adorable family even more grown up!
Prince Charles and Camilla also embrace the Christmas card tradition and we’re hoping new parents Harry and Meghan might gift us with their first-ever festive photo as a family of three.
They love a laugh, too.
It’s not all pomp and ceremony, and even the royals indulge in the festive season.
They reportedly enjoy popping open bespoke Christmas crackers (everyone rocks the colorful hats — even the queen) and play party games like charades.
According to The Express, no one loves hearing the jokes more than the queen herself!
“When she was younger she used to make up her own to amuse the rest of the family. And Prince Phillip likes to joke that he’s pulled a cracker — much to the queen’s amusement,” a source revealed to the publication.
“Prince Harry would always go around the table at Sandringham swapping the crackers around — making sure he placed the heaviest at his place setting. He still does it now.”
They prefer gag presents or homemade gems.
When you’re part of the royal family, you literally have a portfolio of palaces, ponies, and posh purses so it’s rather realistic that the queen and co. prefer to get each other silly gifts instead of wasting money on extravagant things they don’t need.
Kate has set the bar high, revealing that she loves to make the queen her very own top-secret chutney.
“I can remember being at Sandringham, for the first time, at Christmas. And I was worried what to give the queen as her Christmas present,” Kate revealed in a documentary for the queen’s 90th birthday three years ago.
“I was thinking, ‘Gosh, what should I give her?’ I thought back to what would I give my own grandparents. And I thought, ‘I’ll make her something.’ Which could have gone horribly wrong. But I decided to make my granny’s recipe of chutney. I was slightly worried about it, but I noticed the next day that it was on the table. I think such a simple gesture went such a long way for me.”
The mother-of-three has also given the queen framed photos of her children that she’s snapped herself.
For Meghan Markle’s first festive season with her in-laws in 2017, she went all out with the tacky present brief and gifted the queen a singing hamster. According to The Daily Star, Megs’ move was a smash hit with the monarch, who reportedly said, “It can keep my dogs company!”
“Meghan bought a little hamster that sings with a little rope for her majesty. It was so funny, especially when the corgis tried to take hold of the toy,” a source told the publication.
But perhaps the best-ever gag gift comes from Prince Harry, who, according to The Daily Express, once gave his granny the queen a naughty shower cap which had the slogan “Ain’t life a b—h” emblazoned across it.
They eat a traditional Christmas menu.
Author of Eating Royalty, Darren McGrady, has cooked a whopping seven Christmas meals for the royals — and in news that will surprise no one, he says that the meals have always remained very traditional.
Speaking with Hello! Online Darren revealed, “It was the same meal every year.”
“They’re actually boring when it comes to festivities! They didn’t do hams or anything, just traditional turkeys. We did three turkeys for the queen and her family in the royal dining room, one for the children’s nursery, and then more for the 100 or so staff, so everyone had a Christmas lunch.”
Revealing the mainstays of the Christmas menu, Darren added, “turkey, different stuffings – sage and onion, chestnut – and the traditional sides like roast potatoes, mash potatoes, parsnips, and Brussels sprouts.”
And for dessert? According to Darren, it was always Christmas pudding!
“The pudding was made in pudding basins, turned out, decorated in holly, doused in brandy, and then the palace steward would carry it, flaming, into the royal dining room,” Darren said.
Later in the evening, after a walk around the grounds of Sandringham Estate, the royals would be treated to yet another elaborate meal in the form of a buffet.
Darren said, “When I was there Harrods would always give them a whole foie gras en croute. They’d have a whole Stilton cheese. We’d take the top off, pitchfork the top and pour port into it. It made this gorgeous spread for the crackers. It was really opulent. There was also a big York ham that was decorated.”
“Then after carving all of the meat, the queen would then ask the steward to pour the Head Chef a drink and he’d get a whisky and they’d toast him and say thank you, and that was them saying thank you for the whole year.”
How lovely! Now, how do we score an invite?
This article originally appeared on our sister site, Now to Love.