How the British royal family spend Christmas

There's one tradition that may surprise you...

Each year, the British royal family comes together for one final engagement of the year: Christmas.

And just like many of us, the royal family have their own traditions. Some similar and some quite different. For them, a lot of the day is still spent in the public eye. But on Christmas Eve, the family is able to get away and spend the holiday together in a more intimate way.

The royal family attend church on Christmas morning.

Where do the royal family spend Christmas?

Since 1988, the royal family have spent Christmas at Sandringham House. The country estate in Norfolk belonged to the late Queen Elizabeth II and now belongs to King Charles.

Many royals arrive at Sandringham on December 24, just in time for a family dinner.

1969: The Royal Family relaxing in a drawing room at Sandringham House.

How does the royal family celebrate Christmas?

The royals have dinner and exchange gifts on Christmas Eve. But instead of placing the presents under a tree, they are placed on long tables and handed out during dinner. The family is said to have a tendency to purchase each other ‘joke’ gifts – we’d love to be a fly on the wall for that!

The family also engages in another long held tradition (which was started by Queen Elizabeth’s grandfather King George V): the gifting of Christmas puddings and greeting cards to the staff.  About 1500 puddings are distributed to workers in the palaces, Palace Police, and the Court Post office.

On Christmas Day, the royal family attends the morning service at St Mary Magdalene, in Sandringham. This is a tradition dating back to the 16th century. Onlookers usually gather outside the small country church, waiting to greet the royals in attendance.

Prince Charles, Princess Diana, Prince William, and Prince Harry, leave the church on Christmas Day.

What do the royal family eat for Christmas?

As you can imagine, a royal Christmas would include a feast fit for a King (quite literally). Royal Chef Darren McGrady once revealed, “Right before the Christmas buffet, the senior chef on duty goes into the dining room and carves the rib roast or turkey or ham and once he’s done, Her Majesty presents the chef with a glass of whisky and they toast.”

We assume that King Charles now fulfils that duty though.

Other foods the royals eat on Christmas day include lobster salad, all the trimmings to accompany the roast (like roast potatoes and stuffing), and Christmas pudding with brandy butter for dessert.

Darren also revealed one surprising tradition: the royal women and men eat breakfast separately on Christmas morning.

“On Christmas Day, the ladies generally opt for a light breakfast of sliced fruit, half a grapefruit, toast, and coffee delivered to their rooms…The male royals, meanwhile, come downstairs to the dining room for a hearty breakfast at 8:30 a.m.”

Related stories