Europe’s royal families have all had to rethink their Christmas traditions in the face of COVID-19

By Phil Boucher
December 23, 2020 03:52 PM
The Cambridge family Christmas card
| Credit: Matt Porteous / The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge/Kensington Palace via Getty

Europe’s royal families all have their own unique Christmas holiday traditions, but just like millions of families across the world, they’ve had to radically rethink them for 2020.

For some, this has led to self-isolation in castles, for others, it has meant forsaking annual trips to see relatives overseas or even being stranded far from home on a completely different continent.

But one thing has remained constant: despite the dramatic circumstances of 2020, all of Europe’s royals have done their best to stick to the mantra of "Keep Calm And Carry On."

All of Europe's monarchs are also scheduled to address their people over the Christmas holiday with messages of comfort and support.

Kate Middleton, Prince William and Queen Elizabeth
| Credit: Getty

British Royal Family

Queen Elizabeth has canceled the royal family’s annual holiday celebration at her Sandringham estate in Norfolk, where they've gathered to celebrate and swap gifts every year since 1988.

Instead, the Queen, 94, and Prince Philip, 99, will enjoy a quiet festive season at Windsor Castle where they have isolated for the majority of 2020.

"They are fortunate to spend Christmas with their family every year, but they understand that their family will have competing demands over the Christmas period and are content to have a quiet festive season this year," a royal source told PEOPLE in December.

Prince William and Kate Middleton take their kids to the theater
| Credit: Aaron Chown - WPA Pool/Getty

Prince William, 38, and Kate Middleton, 38, are spending the Christmas holiday at their country home of Anmer Hall in Norfolk with — Prince George, 7, Princess Charlotte, 5, and Prince Louis, 2.

It was speculated that the Cambridge's would ring in the holidays with Kate's family in Bucklebury, Berkshire, but that had to change following a new strict coronavirus lockdown in England, which has made it all but impossible for Kate's parents or siblings to join them.

"It is so difficult. We are still trying to make plans," William revealed earlier this month about his family's frustrations over how they'll spend the holidays. "It's difficult to know what to do for the best."

One other major difference from previous years is that Prince Harry, 36, will not see any of his family over the Christmas period. Instead, the Duke of Sussex will spend the festive season with Meghan Markle, 39, and their son, Archie, 1, in the much warmer surroundings of Montecito, California.

Norwegian Royal Family

Christmas Day will be particularly poignant for the Norwegian royals as it will mark a full year since Ari Behn, the ex-husband of Princess Martha Louise, died by suicide.

King Harald has also recently been troubled with health problems. The Norwegian monarch underwent heart valve surgery in October and was forced to self-quarantine with Queen Sonja in November, along with 14 employees at the Royal Court, following a COVID-19 outbreak.

Thankfully, neither Harald nor Sonja was found to have contracted the virus and they have since returned to royal duties.

“Let us all try to take especially good care of each other, and show each other the compassion and kindness that we all need," the Norwegian King said in December, following the release of some festive — and socially distanced — photographs of the royal couple with their son, Crown Prince Haakon, 47, his wife, Crown Princess Mette-Marit, 47, and their two children, Princess Ingrid Alexandra, 16, and Prince Sverre Magnus, 15.

"I wish you all a Happy Christmas and a peaceful holiday season," added the King.

As normal, King Harald and Queen Sonja are expected to spend the holiday at the Royal Lodge, a traditional farmhouse outside of Oslo, which was built in 1906.

Queen Margrethe, Crown Prince Frederik and Prince Christian
| Credit: Per Morten Abrahamsen

Danish Royal Family

In normal years, the Danish royals get together to decorate a tree at the Royal Palace, while Queen Margrethe hosts a huge Christmas lunch where, unusually, a rice pudding dessert is served before the main course of duck or goose.

That has all been put on hold for 2020.

"In connection with the recent increase of COVID-19 in Denmark, the royal family’s Christmas and New Year’s plans have been adjusted," reads a statement posted by the royal house on Dec.17.

"Her Majesty The Queen will celebrate Christmas Eve at Marselisborg Palace together with Their Royal Highnesses Prince Joachim and Princess Marie and their two children, Prince Henrik and Princess Athena, as well as Prince Nikolai and Prince Felix. The original plan was that Her Majesty would celebrate Christmas Eve at Schackenborg Palace, but the holiday will instead be celebrated in Aarhus, where The Queen traditionally resides during the Christmas period."

The changes will also affect the royal plans for the traditional New Year celebrations.

"The planned New Year’s levee at Christiansborg Palace on 4 January 2021 for the prime minister and certain other representatives of official Denmark is canceled," adds the statement. "Instead, Her Majesty The Queen will receive written New Year’s greetings from the levee participants."

One thing will remain constant: as always, Queen Margrethe will deliver her New Year’s address to the people of Denmark on Dec.31.

Dutch Royal Family

Around this time of year, it's traditional for King Willem-Alexander and his wife Queen Maxima, to spend some time in her homeland of Argentina.

But that won't happen this year. According to reports, the Dutch king has canceled plans to visit relatives in Buenos Aires and the royal couple will instead spend the holidays with their daughters Princess Catharina-Amalia, 17, Princess Alexia, 15,  and Princess Ariane, 13, at Het Oude Loo Castle.

Yet they won't exactly be roughing it: the 17th-century hunting lodge (whose name translates into "old" and "forest on sandy soil"), lies around 60 miles east of Amsterdam and has its own moat, stables and a ballroom.

Not all of the Dutch traditions have been put aside for 2020, however: King Willem has already recorded his Christmas speech from Huis ten Bosch Palace in The Hague, which will be broadcast on Christmas Day.