Where the Royal Family are spending Christmas following the Queen's death

While some elements of the monarchy's festivities are confirmed, others are unlikely to be made public - such as whether Meghan and Harry will join their family for any part of the Christmas holidays.

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 15: Prince William, Prince of Wales, Princess Charlotte of Wales and Prince George of Wales and Catherine, Princess of Wales attend the 'Together at Christmas' Carol Service at Westminster Abbey on December 15, 2022 in London, England. Spearheaded by Catherine, Princess of Wales and supported by The Royal Foundation, this year's carol service is dedicated to Her late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and the values she demonstrated throughout her life.  (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)
William and Kate attend a carol service dedicated to Queen Elizabeth II, and hosted by Kate, with their children George and Charlotte. (Getty Images)

During the Queen's lifetime, the Royal Family spent most of their Christmases at Sandringham. There was a period, when the late monarch's children were young, that the festive season was spent at Windsor Castle, however the family's 20,000 acre Norfolk estate has been their favoured option for many decades.

First purchased by Edward VII when he was Prince of Wales, the rural property is privately owned by the monarch rather than being held by the Crown itself.

Since the death of Elizabeth II in September this year, there has been speculation whether King Charles will continue with this tradition. But the palace confirmed in mid-December that the new monarch does indeed intend to keep this aspect of the holiday the same, at least this year.

Read more: Kate and William bring George and Charlotte to carol concert

One change is set to include an update to the format of the Queen's speech - now the King's speech - on Christmas Day. It's been reported that Charles' first Christmas message will deviate from his mother's established pattern — but it remains to be seen what exactly this will look like.

Festive celebrations have already begun for the Windsors. Last week they came together - minus Harry and Meghan - to attend the Princess of Wales' second annual carol service at Westminster Abbey. The service follows on from last year's, which saw Kate surprise viewers by accompanying singer-songwriter Tom Walker on the piano during his performance.

They've also enjoyed a lunch at Windsor Castle for the wider, extended family. Again, Harry and Meghan weren't present. Normally about 50-70 relatives attend, according to Mike Tindall who lifted the lid on royal Christmas traditions before on his podcast, The Good, the Bad and the Rugby.

What do the Royal Family do at Christmas?

(Original Caption) Christmas at Windsor Castle is shown here with Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip shown putting finishing touches to Christmas tree, in a photo made recently during the filming of the joint ITV-BBC film documentary, The Royal Family.
The Royal Family are known to put the finishing touches to their Christmas tree decorations themselves on Christmas Eve. (Getty Images)

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.

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In previous years, Prince Harry reportedly gifted the Queen an ‘ain’t life a bitch’ bath hat, while the Princess of Wales 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. (Getty Images)
Kate, William, Meghan and Harry at the Christmas Day church service in 2017. (Getty Images)

All members of The Royal Household used to receive presents from the Queen and she would personally hand them out to staff at Buckingham Palace and at Windsor Castle. It seems likely that Charles and Camilla will continue this tradition.

Another royal tradition that's been going since the reign of George V is the presentation Christmas puddings to staff by the monarch. About 1500 Christmas puddings paid for by the monarch (through the Privy Purse) are distributed to staff throughout the Palaces, staff in the Court Post Office and Palace police. Each pudding was accompanied by a greeting card from the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, but this year is the first time they will be from the King and Queen Consort.

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As well as donating money to several charities in Windsor each Christmas, the monarch 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.

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)
The Royal Christmas trees are always impressively decorated. (Getty Images)

Harry and William historically took part in a Christmas Eve game of football with household staff, however since the Duke of Sussex's move to California, it is unknown if William has continued taking part without his brother.

In the evening, there is then 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 Queen Victoria, which dates back to the 16th century.

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Her Majesty usually used to attend an earlier communion in private, whether King Charles will continue with this is at this time unconfirmed.

The royals tuck into a traditional turkey lunch with all the trimmings, before sitting down to watch the monarch's speech at 3pm, which is recorded ahead of time. This year will be the first time in 70 years that a King's Speech will be broadcast.

WINDSOR, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 23: Queen Elizabeth II records her annual Christmas broadcast in the White Drawing Room at Windsor Castle on December 23, 2021 in Windsor, England. The photograph on the desk is of The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, taken in 2007 at Broadlands, Hampshire, to mark their Diamond Wedding Anniversary. (Photo by Victoria Jones - Pool/Getty Images)
Queen Elizabeth II recorded her final Christmas broadcast at Windsor Castle. (Getty Images)

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.

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