All the Queen's Christmas traditions with her royal family

By Mulenga Hornsby and Ainhoa Barcelona

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'.

TAP TO VIEW GALLERYA photograph of Sandringham HouseThe Queen invites her family to Sandringham House in Norfolk

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.

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There will be plenty of presents for tiny hands to unwrap. Prince George, four, and two-year-old Princess Charlotte will no doubt have a ball with their little cousins Mia Tindall, who turns four in January, and Savannah and Isla Phillips, aged six and five.

A photograph of Queen Elizabeth II with decorated Christmas TreesThe royals gather round to listen to the Queen's broadcast speech on Christmas Day

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.

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This year there will be plenty of exciting news to talk about – Prince William and Kate are eagerly awaiting the arrival of their third child, while Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are planning their May wedding. It will also mark Prince Philip's first Christmas as a retired member of the Royal Family.

A photograph of the Royal FamilyThe family attend the traditional Christmas Day service

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.

A photograph of Prince William and Prince Harry greeting senior citizensThey greet well-wishers after the church service

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.

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