The Royal Family's Christmas 2018 plans: Meals, presents and traditions

Danielle Stacey
Royal Correspondent
The Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Charles, Camilla, Meghan Markle and Prince Harry pictured on Christmas Day last year [Photo: Getty]

For the Royal Family, Christmas begins with a lunch at Buckingham Palace before they depart for Sandringham, the Queen’s country estate in Norfolk, where they traditionally spend the festive period and New Year.

During the sixties, when Her Majesty’s children were small, many Christmases were celebrated at Windsor Castle, where the Royal Family spends Easter. But since 1988, when the castle was being rewired, Royal Christmases returned to Sandringham.

On Christmas Eve, the royals will make the final finishing touches to the Christmas tree, before laying out their presents on trestle tables. Gifts are exchanged on Christmas Eve instead of the day itself, because the Royal Family are of German descent, so they weave in those traditions to their celebrations.

Presents are not of the extravagant kind. Instead family members are encouraged to buy each other something cheap and humorous.

In previous years, Prince Harry reportedly gifted the Queen an ‘ain’t life a bitch’ bath hat, while the Duchess of Cambridge gave Harry a ‘grow-your-own girlfriend’ kit (of course, this was in the pre-Meghan Markle era). Princess Diana apparently didn’t get the memo during her first Christmas with the royals and reportedly bought Princess Anne a cashmere jumper.

Kate, William, Meghan and Harry at the Christmas Day church service in 2017 [Photo: Getty]

All members of The Royal Household receive presents from the Queen and she personally hands them out to staff at Buckingham Palace and at Windsor Castle.

Continuing the tradition from her father, King George VI and her grandfather, George V, Her Majesty also gives Christmas puddings to her staff.  About 1500 Christmas puddings paid for by the Queen (through the Privy Purse) are distributed to staff throughout the Palaces, staff in the Court Post Office and Palace police. Each pudding is accompanied by a greeting card from the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh.

As well as donating money to several charities in Windsor each Christmas, Her Majesty also gives Christmas trees each year to Westminster Abbey, St. Paul’s Cathedral, St. Giles’ Cathedral and the Canongate Kirk in Edinburgh. Churches and schools in the Sandringham area also receive a tree.

Harry and William usually take part in a Christmas Eve game of football with household staff and there is also a black-tie dinner, which requires suits, evening gowns and tiaras.

On Christmas Day, the Royal Family attend a church service at St Mary Magdalene, Sandringham, a country church visited by the Queen’s Great-Great Grandmother Queen Victoria, which dates back to the 16th century.

Her Majesty usually also attends an earlier communion in private.

The royals tuck into a traditional turkey lunch with all the trimmings, before sitting down to watch the Queen’s speech at 3pm, which is recorded earlier in the year.

The Queen recording her Christmas speech [Photo: Getty]

Former royal household member Alexandra Messervy revealed the royals love to play charades when they get together at Christmas.

She told Yahoo UK‘s The Royal Box: “They enjoy a bit of a giggle, they have a tremendous sense of humour.

“Great fans of charades, they’ve always played charades.”

Many members of the family also take part in the annual Boxing Day pheasant shoot on the estate.

According to The Sunday Mirror, Prince Harry will miss out on this year’s hunt, out of respect for his animal-loving wife Meghan’s principles. However, a Kensington Palace source has dismissed the claims, reportedly telling The Telegraph “This is completely untrue.”