A Silly Gift Exchange and Late-Night Dinner! Inside the Queen's Christmas Traditions at Sandringham
A gift exchange, a friendly game of backyard soccer, a yummy turkey feast — Christmas with the royals isn’t too far off from how the rest of the world celebrates the season. Well, except for the fact that granny has to set aside time to address the nation in her annual speech on Christmas Day.
To Sandringham we go!
Each year, the royal family joins Queen Elizabeth at Sandringham Estate in Norfolk, England. Guests usually arrive in the early afternoon, with tea and snacks served in the White Drawing Room at 4 p.m.
The cheaper the gift, the better
The next stop is the red Drawing Room, where the staff has already laid out the presents on trestle tables for each family member. (The family opens their presents on Christmas Eve instead of Christmas Day.) In lieu of expensive gifts, the royals exchange silly presents. Kate reportedly gave brother-in-law Harry a plastic Grow Your Own Girlfriend kit one Christmas — something he won’t be needing now with wife Meghan by his side!
On Christmas Eve, Prince William and Prince Harry typically take part in a charity soccer match on the estate. The game pits workers at the estate in Norfolk, England, against villagers from nearby Castle Rising.
Late-night dinner with all the fixins’
Normally, at 8:30 p.m., the royal family gathers together for a delicious meal, this involves “something festive, some game, like pheasant or venison, and roasted wintery vegetables, like parsnips,” Darren McGrady, who worked for the Windsors for 15 years, told PEOPLE.
Off to church
On Christmas morning, the royal family makes their way for Christmas services at St. Mary Magdalene church. Each year, hundreds of well-wishers gather to see the royals on their annual march to church.
After church, the royal family heads back to Sandringham House for a lunch of Norfolk turkey and other festivities. The head chef, accompanied by some of his team, carve the first of two 25-lb. turkeys at the buffet in the dining room, with the Queen first in line. “At the end of the carving, it’s the one time of the year that she would give the head chef a drink, and he will toast [the family] with ‘Happy Christmas,’ ” McGrady told PEOPLE.
Ready for her royal close-up!
After the festive lunch, the royals watch the annual TV address by the Queen, which airs at 3 p.m. U.K. time, before adjourning either to the Saloon, where the Queen’s favorite jigsaw puzzles are laid out, or else to exercise on the 20,000-acre estate.