How the royal family spends Christmas at Sandringham — from charades to lavish dinners



The Sandringham estate in Norfolk, England, has been the go-to holiday getaway for the royal family ever since 1862, when Queen Victoria purchased the home for one of her sons, the future Edward VII.

The country home has long been the location for the Windsor clan to gather and celebrate each New Year holiday.

The jolly holly festivities are typified by merry traditions that King Charles, Queen Camilla and the rest of the Firm can enjoy as they come together.

Despite Sandringham being a place of joyful memories, it also involves some tragic ones as well.

King George V died there in January 1936, as did the late Queen Elizabeth’s father, George VI, in February 1952.

However, the holiday home will forever be a place for the royals to spend time privately as a family.

Last year was the first time they spent Christmas without Queen Elizabeth II, who died in September.

This year, it’s unlikely that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will join, as they moved to Montecito, California, in 2020 after stepping down from their senior royal titles.

King Charles, Kate Middleton, Prince William, Queen Camilla and the rest of the royal family attend Christmas service on Dec. 25, 2022. Samir Hussein/WireImage

And who can forget the famous walkabout that the former Fab Four — Markle, 42, Harry, 39, Prince William and Kate Middleton, both 41 — undertook in 2018 after the Sandringham Christmas church service?

The customs that the family follows each year include games of charades and soccer and elegant dinners.

Keep reading to learn all about the royal family’s holiday traditions.

Buckingham Palace Lunch

Last year was the first time the fam spent Christmas without the Queen, who died in September. WireImage

Before the holiday week begins, the royals first host a Christmas luncheon at Buckingham Palace before embarking on the ride down to Norfolk.

The event is for extended family members and was hosted by Charles, 75, and Camilla, 76, at Windsor Castle last year.

Even though Sandringham is the place to be for the Nativity season, Buckingham Palace is still decorated with holiday cheer.

Three fir trees are brought to the Marble Hall at the palace every year and decorated — a tradition that was introduced by Queen Victoria and her husband, Prince Albert.

Holiday Cards

Before departing for Sandringham, the monarch sends out more than 750 holiday cards to politicians and other VIPs around the world.

Charles recorded his first Christmas message since the death of Queen Elizabeth last year. Getty Images

The Queen would begin penning them during her summer stay at Balmoral Castle in Scotland, signing off with a distinctive moniker, “Elizabeth R.”

She would write “Elizabeth” on cards she sent to her friends while her famous childhood nickname, “Lilibet,” was used for pamphlets sent to her cousins.

Members of the family also like to send out their own personalized holiday memos, with William and Middleton’s 2023 card making headlines. Their black-and-white shot featured their kids, Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis, smiling together.

However, some eagle-eyed fans spotted a Photoshop mistake in the pic, where it looked like Louis’ middle finger was missing.

Prince William and Kate Middleton’s 2023 holiday card. Getty Images

Heading to Sandringham

Once the tribe has descended onto Sandringham, a medley of fun fêtes go down as Christmas rolls around.

On Yuletide Eve, the family congregates around the tree and gives out presents following afternoon tea.

The Duke of Sussex even wrote in his 2023 memoir, “Spare“: “The whole family gathered to open gifts on Christmas Eve, as always, a German tradition that survived the anglicizing of the family surname from Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to Windsor.”

Sandringham Estate in Norfolk, England. GC Images

The House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha was the original name of the dynasty now known as the Windsors.

Saxe-Coburg-Gotha was established in 1826 and the title changed in 1917 by George V due to the anti-German sentiment rife during World War I.

Games Galore

Harry and the Duke of Cambridge were also known to engage in a friendly game of soccer alongside house staff employees.

Christmas Dinner

Following the game, the evening turns into a black-tie soirée, with the royal family donning fancy attire for dinner.

The royal Christmas tree is admired by Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and their children in December 1848.

“We were at Sandringham in a big room with a long table covered with white cloth and white name card,” Harry wrote in his book.

He added, “By custom, at the start of the night, each of us located our place, stood before our mound of presents. Then suddenly, everyone began opening at the same time. A free-for-all, with scores of family members talking at once and pulling at bows and tearing at wrapping paper.”

Church Bells Ring, Are You Listening?

The then-Prince Charles, Prince William, Kate Middleton, Meghan Markle and Prince Harry attend Christmas Day service at Church of St Mary Magdalene on the Sandringham estate on Dec. 25, 2018. Samir Hussein/WireImage

The next day, the group attends church service at St Mary Magdalene on the Sandringham estate.

After they arrive home, a gigantic Christmas Day lunch spread is laid out at around 12:45 p.m.

Among the delicacies served are turkey, parsnips, carrots, Brussels sprouts, Christmas pudding and brandy.

With everyone’s bellies full of food and drink, it’s time for a game of charades.

On Christmas Eve, the family congregates around the tree and gives out presents following afternoon tea. REUTERS

Charades, Anyone?

“Parlor games, charades, that all comes from Queen Victoria, and they absolutely carry on those traditions and games,” royal biographer Duncan Larcombe explained to Newsweek.

Christmas Broadcast

In the late afternoon, the sovereign will conduct a Christmas broadcast to the Commonwealth. Since 1952, the Queen has made her annual speech, with last year marking the first time Charles took center stage.



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