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Meghan Markle and Prince Harry
Meghan Markle and Prince Harry | Chris Jackson/Getty Images

On December 25th people all around the world will celebrate Christmas with their family traditions. Each family does the holiday season a bit differently, and many with traditions passed down for countless generations.

The royal family is no exception to the rule. They, too, celebrate the holiday in much the same way as the rest world … with a few exceptions, of course. Many people are curious why the royal family doesn’t open their presents on Christmas day.

Why the royal family doesn’t open presents on Christmas Day

The royal family exchanges their presents on Christmas Eve at tea time, instead of on Christmas morning. This royal family tradition started with King George (Queen Elizabeth II’s father), who is of German descent. In Germany, presents are opened on Christmas Eve.

Where does the royal family celebrate Christmas?

The royal family celebrates Christmas at the Queen’s residence in Sandringham. The queen arrives earlier than the rest of the family (on the 19th or 20th of December) to oversee preparations. The rest of the royal family arrives in the morning or early afternoon of Christmas Eve. This includes Queen Elizabeth’s children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, as well as extended family members.

What does the royal family do on Christmas Eve?

Queen Elizabeth II and Kate Middleton
Queen Elizabeth II and Kate Middleton | Oli Scarff – WPA Pool / Getty Images)

Besides the exchanging of presents, the royal family enjoys the company of one another on Christmas Eve. It has been long withstanding that the holidays are a time for the royal family to be together without the weight of the world (or the United Kingdom, anyways) on their shoulders.

What does the royal family do on Christmas Day?

Christmas Day is busy for the royal family. After a hearty breakfast, they attend church service at St. Mary Magdelene in Sandringham. When service is over, they return home for a traditional feast.

Queen Elizabeth II gives her annual Christmas message to all of Britain and the Commonwealth Kingdoms, which is broadcast over the television. The rest of the royal family watches as she gives her speech. In the evening, everyone enjoys a buffet-style meal before retiring for the night.

What does the royal family eat for their Christmas meal?

Sources say that the royal family has always had the same Christmas meal as far as anyone can remember. It never changes. A shrimp or lobster salad is paired with a roasted turkey, parsnips, Brussels sprouts, and carrots. Christmas pudding with brandy butter is served for dessert.

What other annual traditions does the royal family have?

Queen Elizabeth and her corgis
Queen Elizabeth II and her corgis | The Royal Family via Facebook

The queen and her husband traditionally send over 750 Christmas cards and also purchase a special Christmas pudding for all members of their household (which number in the hundreds). The card features a family photo that we are delighted to inform everyone includes Queen Elizabeth II’s beloved (and adorable) corgis.

Donations are made by the queen to a variety of charities around Sandringham, and she also gives away a few Christmas trees. It is also the time of year for all of the royal family to show their appreciation to those who serve them during the rest of the year.

What’s different this year?

Although the royal family (and Queen Elizabeth in particular) do not typically stray from tradition, this year promises to be a little different. Despite a strict “family only” policy at private holiday events, rumors have it that the queen extended an invitation to Meghan Markle’s mom, Doria Ragland.

Surprisingly, even Kate Middleton was not allowed to attend before her and Prince William were officially married. Last year, when she was only engaged to Prince Harry, Markle was invited – thus breaking tradition yet another time.