Royal Family Holiday Traditions the Queen, Duchess Kate & More Follow Each Year

Prince Harry, Queen Elizabeth, Meghan Markle, Kate Middleton
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Given their strict dress code and the rules around their weddings, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that there are royal family holiday traditions that Prince William, Kate Middleton and more follow each year. Like any family, the British royals, which also includes members like Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip and Prince Harry, have their own set of traditions that they follow every year as the holidays roll around. Some of them are pretty standard (like their tradition of giving gag gifts and having two Christmas trees) while others are simply customs that only the royal family could follow. (Spoiler alert: They send out around 800 Christmas cards each holiday.)

This December 25 will mark another royal Christmas without Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in the United Kingdom. The former Suits actress and her husband have not spent Christmas with the royal family since 2018. The couple opted to break royal tradition in 2019 by spending the winter holidays with their son Archie in Canada. Then, in 2020, the Sussexes were unable to visit the royal family for Christmas a second time due to travel restrictions that prevented them from visiting the U.K. from California, which is where they relocated following their royal exit earlier that year

Nevertheless, we’re sure that this year’s holiday will still be a loving family affair. And with a full house of royal babies (need we remind you that Prince William and Kate Middleton also have three kids running around), we’re certain that there won’t be a dull moment at holidays with the royals. Ahead, read up on the royal family holiday traditions they have in store for this year’s festivities.

The Queen Usually Has a Pre-Christmas Lunch

Queen Elizabeth

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Oh, what we would give for a seat at the Queen’s pre-Christmas lunch. Each year, Queen Elizabeth II typically hosts a lunch the week before Christmas at Buckingham Palace. The meal is usually attended by as many as 50 royal family members, including Princess Eugenie, Princess Beatrice, Zara and Mike Tindall, and, of course, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Fiancé’s of the royal family are also often invited. Both Markle and Middleton attended the Queen’s pre-Christmas lunch before their respective weddings as a way to get to know the royal family better before they tied the knot. While this royal tradition has been skipped in recent years to avoid large, indoor gatherings, it’s one that we’re sure the royal family is looking forward to when it’s safe once more.

Christmas Is at Sandringham Estate

Sandringham Estate

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For the actual holiday, the Queen invites the royal family to the Sandringham House in Norfolk. The estate, which the royal family has owned since 1862, has been the destination for the family’s Christmas for decades. As for room situations, the Queen has it all figured out. Prince William and Kate Middleton have their own area of the estate, Anmer Hall, while Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were also given their own place to stay in Sandringham after their wedding: York Cottage.

They Arrive on Christmas Eve in Order of Importance

Prince William, Kate Middleton, Meghan Markle, Prince Harry Christmas

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Like their rule for walking into rooms, members of the royal family also arrive at Christmas Eve in order of importance. The royals are given a specific day and time to arrive at Sandringham Estate, which are determined by their status within the family. The order goes from junior to senior, so the members lower on the royal family’s totem pole would arrive first. and more well-known members, such as Prince Charles and his sons, would come later.

Harry and William Play an Annual Christmas Eve Football Game

Prince Harry, Prince William Football

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One of the cutest royal family holiday traditions included Prince William and Harry’s annual Christmas Eve football (soccer, for your Americans) game at Sandringham Estate. The brothers used to play the sport with staff at the estate before Christmas day and even had a habit of wearing socks for their favorite teams (Aston Villa for William and Arsenal for Harry), according to PopSugar.

There Are 2 Christmas Trees

Kate Middleton Christmas Tree

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Compared to other celebrities (looking at you, Kris Jenner), two Christmas trees for the royals is nothing. (Though it’s one more than what the average person has.) Darren McGrady, a former chef for Queen Elizabeth II, told Good Housekeeping that the royal keep a real and fake tree in their dining room for Christmas. “The Royal Family has a large Christmas tree and a large silver artificial tree in the dining room, which is about 30 years old,” he said.

They Give Each Other Gag Gifts

Kate Middleton

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White Elephant at Sandringham Estate? In addition to actual Christmas presents, royal family members are also known to tease each other with gag gifts. According to Marie Claire, Kate gave Harry a “Grow Your Own Girlfriend” kit one Christmas when he was single. The Sun also reports that Prince Charles’ “favorite-ever gift” is a white leather toilet seat from Princess Anne. What was meant to be a gag gift has actually turned out to be practical as the newspaper claims that the prince finds the seat to be so “comfy” that he travels with it.

The Queen Reads Corny Jokes

Queen Elizabeth, Meghan Markle

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She’s got jokes! Each holiday, Queen Elizabeth II treats the royal family to corny jokes that she made up herself. According to Express, the tradition comes from the Queen’s love of comedy at a young age when she would create her own jokes to tell her family.

Kids Aren’t Allowed at Christmas Dinner

Princess Charlotte, Prince George

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Christmas dinner at Sandringham Estate is adults-only, at least for the really young royal children. Darren McGrady told the Daily Mail that the Christmas feast is reserved for grown-ups and older kids who are able to “conduct themselves in a proper manner at the table.”

They Send Out 800 Christmas Cards

Prince Charles and Camilla Duchess of Cornwall Christmas card

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According to Royals.UK, a royal history site, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip send out about 750 to 800 Christmas cards each year. In addition to that number, Philip also sends another 200 cards to various regiments and organizations that are close to the royal family. Per Reader’s Digest, politicians and heads of state will receive cards signed with “Elizabeth R” (the R stands for “Regina,” the Latin word for “queen”), while friends will get notes signed with Elizabeth. The Queen’s cousins will receive mailers with her nickname, “Lilibet.” The site also reports that the Queen starts signing her cards as early as the summer, so she doesn’t fall behind.

They Sometimes Bring Their Own Plates and Food

Queen Elizabeth

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It’s often BYO whatever at Sandringham Estate for Christmas. McGrady told People that the royals sometimes bring their own China or organic foods to eat at Christmas dinner. (Specifically, Prince Charles used to bring a pile of organic food, including plums from his estate garden, for the meal.) “I had to make sure it went on the right plate,” he said. “The Queen Mum’s was a pattern she had at home and she wanted it for her breakfast. They like the continuity.”

They are banned from playing Monopoly

queen elizabeth christmas Royal Family Holiday Traditions the Queen, Duchess Kate & More Follow Each Year

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Yep, you read that right. In 2008, the Duke of York revealed that the royal family has a Christmas day ban on Monopoly. But why? Well, it seems that the royals have another thing in common with everyone else who plays Monopoly—it gets far too intense. “We’re not allowed to play Monopoly at home,” Prince Andrew revealed during a visit to Leeds Building Society’s Albion Street headquarters, per Marie Claire. “It gets too vicious.”

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