Like any close-knit family, the royals see Christmas and the festive season as a time to spend with family and loved ones. Marking the holidays in private, this time of year marks a break from official duties — and they've got a set of special traditions that play into their celebrations.
The festivities are held at the Queen's grand country home, Sandringham Estate, in Norfolk. The 90-year-old monarch and her husband Prince Philip usually retreat to the country the week before Christmas, around Dec. 21, to prepare for the big family reunion.
Other guests arrive at the 20,000-acre estate from Dec. 23 in order of precedence, with Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall usually the last to arrive. While the family are welcomed to Sandringham House, Prince William and Kate usually stay in their own residence, Anmer Hall, just down the road from the 'big house'.
On Christmas Eve when all the clan are together, the Queen's grandchildren and great-grandchildren put the finishing touches on the Christmas tree. Presents will be opened that day at tea time with gifts laid out in the Red Drawing Room on a trestle table. However, the monarch's gifts are unlikely to be pricey. Touchingly for people who have everything, the royals tend to buy each other jokey things. A white leather loo suit was the star item one year.
There will be plenty of presents for tiny hands to unwrap. Prince George, three, and 19-month-old Princess Charlotte will no doubt have a ball with their little cousins Mia Tindall, who turns three in January, and Savannah and Isla Phillips, aged five and four.
At 8 pm on Christmas Eve a candle-lit dinner is served with the ladies in gowns and jewels and the men in black tie. It is a relatively formal affair, but also the chance for the families to catch up.
This year there will be plenty of exciting news to talk about – the Queen's granddaughter Zara and her husband Mike Tindall recently announced that they are expecting their second baby, while Prince Harry will want to reminisce on his recent colourful tour of the Caribbean, and perhaps share some sweet anecdotes about his new girlfriend Meghan Markle.
On the morning of Dec. 25 a full English breakfast is served before everyone attends the traditional church service at St Mary's Magdalene.
Afterwards it's back home for a turkey roast with all the trimmings, before everyone gathers at 3 pm to watch the Queen's Speech. And the staff can finally put their feet up as the family insist on serving themselves their own buffet supper.
Prince William and Kate, and their children Prince George and Princess Charlotte, will also spend part of the Christmas break in Berkshire with Kate's side of the family. The royal children will be reunited with their grandparents Carole and Michael Middleton and uncle James and auntie Pippa, who will no doubt lavish the youngsters with gifts, love and attention.