Family gifts tend to be fun and jokey – rather than expensive and showy

By Simon Perry
Updated December 20, 2011 05:00 PM
Credit: Arthur Edwards/Abaca

For any newlywed, the first Christmas with the in-laws can be intense. Now imagine spending it with Queen Elizabeth.

That’s exactly what Kate faces when she joins husband Prince William and his family at Sandringham House, about 110 miles north of London, for the holiday.

The pressures range from what to wear to what to give the family that has everything.

Even so, the festivities will kick off on Christmas Eve, when the presents are exchanged, following the German tradition started by Queen Victoria. As the Queen sips her usual gin and Dubonet, the younger royals will likely partake in the locally brewed cider or wine.

And, in keeping with both the Queen’s frugality and the fact that the royals can have virtually anything they desire, gifts are normally fun and jokey rather than expensive and showy.

“Kate has the brains to realize that you don’t buy extravagant presents. The royals don’t approve of that,” says author Judy Wade. “You give small, inexpensive things that are thoughtful. There’s a lot of scurrying around by aides of royals asking other aides what their principles want for Christmas.”

On Dec. 25 there is a parade to church – something that gives local well-wishers a chance to see and the family on the holiday.

As for wardrobe changes, despite reports that Kate will have to prepare five outfits a day, insiders find this unlikely. “Everyone’s really practical, after all it’s winter in Norfolk,” a source says.

As a result, Kate might be considering something special for Christmas Eve cocktails and dinner, then another outfit for Christmas morning – to get her through breakfast, the walk to church, followed by the traditional lunch of roast turkey or game and a vast array of seasonal vegetables, like Brussels sprouts.

In the evening, there will be a change for dinner and the inevitable parlor games, such as charades. The Queen’s favorites are jigsaw puzzles and Scrabble.

Dec. 26, known as Boxing Day, should find Kate on the pheasant shoot on the vast 20,000-acre estate, where the royals are joined by locals and estate workers. And despite talk that Kate’s sister Pippa, 28, will be joining the fun, she was not invited to Sandringham. However, William and Kate are likely to visit the Middletons in the days after Christmas.