When do the Royal Family take their Christmas decorations down?


Previously unissued photo dated 13/12/22 of King Charles III during the recording of his first Christmas broadcast in the Quire of St George's Chapel at Windsor Castle, Berkshire. Issue date: Friday December 23, 2022. PA Photo. See PA story ROYAL King. Photo credit should read: Victoria Jones/PA Wire
King Charles gave his first Christmas address in front of a tree decorated with sustainable materials, in the Quire of St. George's Chapel, Windsor Castle. (Getty Images)

The Royal Family do things their own way, including their Christmas decorations. Traditionally, people take down their festive adornments on the twelfth day of Christmas — around the 5th of January — but during the reign of Queen Elizabeth II, it's thought the Windsors kept their decorations up for an extra month until her return to Buckingham Palace.

The roots of this tradition have a sad history. In 1952, Queen Elizabeth's father, King George VI died on February 6th at Sandringham — the monarch's private 20,000 acre Norfolk estate — aged only 56.

Elizabeth, aged 25 at the time, was abroad on a royal tour with Philip and never expected to accede throne so early into adulthood.

11th April 1942:  Princess Elizabeth talking to her father, King George VI whilst he goes through the Royal boxes in a study at Windsor Castle, Berkshire.  (Photo by Lisa Sheridan/Studio Lisa/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Then Princess Elizabeth talking to her father, King George VI whilst he goes through the Royal dispatch boxes at Windsor Castle, in 1942, ten years before his early death. (Getty Images)

Later that year after her father died, Elizabeth as the new monarch wrote in a letter about the loss: "It all seems so unbelievable still that my father is no longer here and it is only after some time has passed one begins to realise how much he is missed".

For most of Queen Elizabeth's reign, she celebrated the festive season at Sandringham with her family, and stayed there for an extended holiday until the anniversary of her father's death had passed. The royals generally used to spend this time over New Year enjoying outdoor pursuits like shooting and horse riding, as well as attending church.

WINDSOR, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 23: Employees pose with a 20ft Nordmann Fir tree from Windsor Great Park in St George's Hall which has been decorated for the Christmas period on November 23, 2017 in Windsor Castle, England. The Windsor Castle State Apartments are used by members of the Royal Family for hosting and events. Queen Elizabeth II resides at Windsor Castle most weekends and over the easter period and it is the oldest and largest inhabited castle in the world. (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)
Employees pose with a 20ft Nordmann Fir tree in the Windsor Castle State Apartments in 2017. (Getty Images)

Whether King Charles will continue this tradition remains to be seen, but for the last few decades the royals have enjoyed their Christmas decorations for a lot longer than the rest of us, and ignored the superstition that it is bad luck to keep them up after the twelfth day of Christmas.

The Christmas trees at in the state apartments at Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace are always impressive: up to 20ft and ornately decorated.

However, it is said that at Sandringham the festive decorations are little more understated and that when the royals arrive on Christmas Eve for their family celebration, they add the finishing touches themselves.

June 1969: Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip look at their decorated Christmas tree during the filming of a television special about life in the British royal family.    (Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images)
Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip putting the finishing touches on their Christmas tree in 1968. (Getty Images)

In Victorian times, Prince Albert — Queen Victoria's husband — helped popularise the use of Christmas trees, which had first arrived in the UK under Queen Charlotte.

As trees were historically a German custom in the festive season, Albert's enthusiasm for them quickly made it a trend that spread around the country, and, of course, continues today.

So if your festive decor ends up hanging around a little longer than the 5th of January, you're in good company.

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