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.
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 toilet seat was the star item one year, from Princess Anne to Prince Charles!
There will be plenty of presents for tiny hands to unwrap. Prince George, 5, Princess Charlotte, 3, and seven-month-old Prince Louis will no doubt have a ball with their little cousins Mia Tindall, who turns five in January, and Savannah and Isla Phillips, aged seven and six. By next Christmas, there will be another little pair of hands – Baby Sussex! – around the Christmas tree.
At 8 p.m. 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 – Prince Harry and Meghan are getting ready to welcome their first baby in the spring, while the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are set to celebrate Prince Louis' first birthday in April. It will also mark Prince Philip's second Christmas as a retired member of the Royal Family, and Meghan's mom, Doria Ragland, will reportedly be joining in on the festivities!
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.
The Cambridge clan 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.