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Given their strict dress code as the rules around their wedding, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that there are royal family holiday traditions that Meghan Markle, Kate Middleton, Prince Harry and more follow each other. Like any family, the British royals, which also includes members like Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip and Prince William, 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 the Duchess of Sussex’s second Christmas as an official member of the United Kingdom’s royal family. The holiday will also be her first as a mother. The former Suits actress and her husband, Prince Harry, welcomed their son Archie, 6 months, in May, so we’re sure that there’s a lot for little Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor to take in this go-around. The Christmas may also be one of the last with Queen Elizabeth II as the U.K.’s monarch, according to a report from People. The magazine believes that the sovereign will retire by the age of 95 (a.k.a. in two years), which means that 2019’s Christmas will be one of the final few with the Queen on the throne.
Given this speculation, we’re sure that this year’s holiday will be more fabulous than ever. And with a full house of royal babies (need us to remind you that Prince William and Kate Middleton also have three toddlers 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 Has a Pre-Christmas Lunch
Oh, what we would give for a seat at the Queen’s pre-Christmas lunch. Each year, Queen Elizabeth II 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 Dukes and Duchesses of Cambridge and Sussex. 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.
Christmas Is at Sandringham Estate
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 at Christmas Eve in Order of Importance
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
One of the cutest royal family holiday traditions includes Prince William and Harry’s annual Christmas Eve football (soccer, for your Americans) game at Sandringham Estate. The brothers play the sport with staff at the estate before Christmas day and even have 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
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
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
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
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 and older kids who are able to “conduct themselves in a proper manner at the table.”
They Send Out 800 Christmas Cards
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
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.”