Christmas is the holiday of family, traditions and love, so how does the royal family celebrate the day? With their very own traditions of course.
While many of us have relatively private festive celebrate at a family home, the royal family are quite the opposite. Usually partaking in a walk about and attending church, King Charles will also host a Christmas day black-tie dinner at Sandringham and there may even be a competitive football match.
This year, it’s expected the royal celebrations will include the usual members, Charles and Queen Camilla, the Wales family, Mike and Zara Tindall as well as other senior royals. As for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, a source told the Times they would be willing to accept an invitation to the big day, however recent fallout following the release of Omid Scobie’s new book may have squashed their chance of receiving an invitation.
So, as King Charles prepares to host his second-ever Christmas at the helm of the monarchy, we take a look at seven festive traditions the royal family has held in the past.
It is perhaps the royal family’s most well-known Christmas tradition and last year it was revealed Charles intends to continue with it. However, ITV’s Royal Editor, Chris Ship, claims this year will be very different.
Taking place on Christmas Eve, Town and Country reported the four-course dinner - that usually includes the Wales family and the King’s brothers and sister, will see “major alterations” to the annual tradition as Queen Camilla’s children and grandchildren will reportedly join the Royal family for dinner.
With the additions of Camilla’s two children - Tom Parker Bowles and Laura Lopes, and five grandchildren - Lola, 16, Freddy, 13, Eliza, 15, and twins Gus and Louis, 13 - there is more room needed and Ship claims the dinner will now take place in the ballroom of Sandringham House instead of the dining room.
The black-tie event includes a pre-dinner martini and mingling - which children are not allowed to attend, the adults will be dressed in their formal wear with the women expected to wear ballgowns and royal women to wear a tiara.
Royal football match
In past years, brothers Prince William and Prince Harry have been known to get rather competitive at the annual Sandringham Christmas football match. It takes place on the Norfolk estate and sees members of the royal family split into two teams.
Daily Mail reports a past match has seen Harry launch at William in 2013 when the match became especially heated and resulted in a draw of two points each - thankfully, they left the anger on the field and ended the game with a brotherly hug.
While it’s not yet known if the game will continue this year, the tradition of the two brothers each leading a team is unlikely to continue this year as their estranged relationship continues amid the release of Omid Scobie’s explosive book, Endgame.
The Express reports that like many other families on Christmas, it’s not a festive day without a few games and the royal family’s game of choice is reportedly charades.
In the past, the family return to Sandringham after attending a church service in the morning, have a “cold buffet” according to Mike Tindall, before sitting down for a game of charades. The late Queen reportedly enjoyed the festive pastime and glasses of Bailey’s would be shared throughout the game.
Since the passing of the Queen in September 2022, it’s unknown if the family will continue the tradition.
Unlike Kiwis, who generally exchange gifts on Christmas Day, the monarchy exchanges gifts on Christmas Eve, laying them out on a trestle table and opening them around teatime according to the family’s official website.
As for what kind of presents they exchange, Daily Mail spoke to former Royal Household employee Alexandra Messervy said the family keep their gift exchange a “light-hearted affair” and stay away from extravagant gifts.
“There’s always the idea to give something useful or fun. They certainly would never have extravagant gifts,” she said.
Toast to the chef
Daily Mail reported during Elizabeth’s reign, it was tradition to raise a glass to the chef who created the royal family’s festive feast.
Following the Christmas lunch, the senior chef was reportedly called into Sandringham dining room where they carved the chosen meat and the late monarch would present the chef with a glass of whisky and toast him.
The UK news outlet has reported the tradition is unlikely to continue under Charles’ reign however it’s unclear why.
According to the royal family’s official website, members of The Firm ramp up their regular charity donations made throughout the year by donating Christmas cards, trees and money to several charities in Windsor over the Christmas period.
While it’s not yet known who the King will personally donate to this year. Last year he continued his late mother’s tradition and gifted Christmas trees to Westminster Abbey, St. Paul’s Cathedral, St. Giles’ Cathedral and the Canongate Kirk in Edinburgh as well as multiple schools in the Sandringham area.
Christmas Day schedule
Every year the royal family come together for their annual church service at St. Mary Magdalene on the Sandringham Estate. Last year, Prince Louis stole the show when he joined the family during their Sandringham walkabout and was seen handing his sister, Princess Charlotte a bouquet.
It’s expected Louis, Charlotte and their older brother Prince George will join their parents, Prince William and Princess Kate again this year. Despite being an open invitation, it’s unlikely Prince Harry, Meghan Markle and their two children, Prince Archie, 4 and Princess Lilibet, 2 will join the Royal family this year.
Following the service, the family will return to Sandringham where they will enjoy Christmas lunch and later, King Charles will address the Commonwealth with his second Christmas day speech.