Most of us have family traditions that we enjoy every Christmas and it is no different for the Queen and the Royal family.
While many of us will be wrapping up gifts and leaving them under the Christmas tree to open on the big day, that’s not what the Royal family do.
Instead, with the family gathered at Sandringham House in Norfolk, the Royal family will follow the German tradition of handing presents over on Christmas Eve – which they do after they have enjoyed afternoon tea.
However, the family tradition doesn’t end there as there are strict rules over when the Royal family opens their Christmas presents.
This tradition stretches back several decades and involves their so-called ‘gag’ gifts – these are the funny and often strange gifts given between family members.
For example, Prince Harry scored with a memorable hit with a ‘Ain’t life of a bitch’ shower hat that he presented to the Queen.
However, Kate hit the target with a ‘Grow your own girlfriend kit’ gift that she presented to Prince Harry.
Christmas presents are placed on trestle tables
The Christmas presents are placed on trestle tables which are covered with white linen and there are cards marking precisely where the gifts should be placed.
However, no one is allowed to open any of their presents until Prince Philip gives the nod for them to do so.
While we mention gag gifts, all recipients must receive one and essentially means the cheaper the present is, the better it is considered.
While the Royal family enjoy their gifts, members of the Royal household are also treated to gifts and most will receive a Christmas pudding. This tradition was started by her grandfather, George V and carried on by her father, George VI. Also, everyone who works in the Royal household will receive a Christmas gift but they will need to have worked for the Queen for a year or more.
The cost of the gift will range from £25 for junior staff and up to £35 for senior workers.
It’s also interesting to note that these royal staff can ask for the present they want and with more than 500 members of staff to cater for, means the Queen starts buying them in March – usually from Harrods.
The staff are presented with their gift in the State apartments in the week before Christmas. They will approach the Queen individually, say thank you and say the present is exactly what they had asked for him – though they haven’t opened it!
Her Majesty’s Christmas traditions take lots of planning
Indeed, Her Majesty’s Christmas traditions do take lots of planning and she apparently begins writing her Christmas cards in the summer.
If you receive a Christmas card from the Queen and are interested to know how dear and important you are to her Majesty, then take note of the way she signs the card.
If you receive a card signed ‘Lilibet’, that’s the Queen’s childhood nickname, then you are probably a close family member.
If you are a long-time family friend, then it will be signed Elizabeth, but without the following letter ‘R’.
Others, usually heads of state, will receive a card signed with a more formal Elizabeth R, while those at the bottom of the list will get one that is rubberstamped with her Majesty’s signature.
The Queen is not a stickler for tradition
It also needs to be appreciated that the Queen is not a stickler for tradition and will bend the rules occasionally.
For example, to celebrate Christmas in 2017, the Queen invited Meghan Markle to the festivities despite her being a commoner at the time.
Now Meghan has married into the Royal family, the Queen has invited Megan’s mother, Dorian to the festivities in 2018.
Before the Royal family gathers at Sandringham House, the Queen will be living in Windsor Castle, where there are lots of decorations installed.
One of these is a 20ft high Christmas tree that staff need to use ladders for when it comes to decorating it.
The tree has hundreds of lights covering it, along with tiny replica crowns and will stand proudly in St George’s Hall over the festive period.
Queen’s Christmas traditions
The Queen’s Christmas traditions also extend to what she and her family members drink over the festive period.
While Prince Philip is a big beer lover, apparently, the Queen loves a cocktail made from Dubonnet and gin called Zaza.
Prince Charles is a cherry brandy fan, while Camilla loves a gin and tonic.
Other beer lovers for their Sandringham stay include both William and Harry and they traditionally enjoy a cider made from apple trees that were planted by King George VI on the Sandringham estate.
Kate Middleton enjoys red wine, her first choice is Merlot, or a glass of Jack Daniels’ whiskey.
By tradition, Christmas lunch will begin at 1:15 pm and starts with a salad of lobster or shrimp.
Then comes roast turkey with traditional side dishes, including carrots, brussels sprouts and parsnips. Christmas pudding is dished up for dessert with brandy butter.
Tradition for the menu to be written in French
Another tradition is for the menu to be written in French and all drinks served during Christmas lunch will be in Crystal stemware with the ‘EIIR’ moniker on them.
A tradition on Christmas Day is that before the family tuck in, the most senior chef will leave the kitchen and go into the dining room to carve the turkey. The Queen then presents a glass of whisky to the chef and they make a toast, which is the only time the chef will join the Royals in their dining room.
Another, possibly very unusual tradition, that the Queen insists upon is that the Royal family stays up until midnight to play charades on Christmas Day.
This is regardless of how tired they may be, and the game will end when her Majesty declares that she’s had enough and will retire.
Other traditions enjoyed by the Queen is to give a hundredweight of coal to poor and deserving people living in Windsor in the run-up to Christmas, though, with the rise of central heating being installed in properties means there are fewer than 100 people eligible for the gift today.
It’s also worthwhile noting that her Majesty and Prince Philip are the last to arrive at Sandringham for the Christmas celebrations, proceeded shortly before by Prince Charles and Princess William and Harry. They will then form a welcoming committee for the Queen and Prince Philip.
The other tradition that’s also an unusual one is that despite having a royal train, her Majesty will usually take the journey to Sandringham using public transport, which is a big surprise to the passengers on the Thameslink train when she gets on board.
Christmas Day traditions for the Queen
Finally, Christmas Day traditions for the Queen would not be complete without attending church twice in the same day. She will have a private service at 9 am and then will lead the Royal family for the traditional Christmas Day service at 11 am with all members walking to the church except for her Majesty, who is taken by car.
This church service is the only time in the year that her Majesty will use money because when the collection plate is passed around, there’s an equerry sat in the pew behind her who will hand over a £10 note which she then puts onto the plate.
And that’s the Queen’s and Royal family’s Christmas traditions which they enjoy year-in, year-out and highlight that all families have their own foibles and ‘must dos’.