Christmas traditions are sacred, and in that sense, the royal family is no different. Every year, the Queen goes up to Sandringham House in Norfolk on the 19th or 20th of December, with the rest of the family arriving on Christmas Eve around lunchtime.
Darren McGrady, former chef to Queen Elizabeth II, Diana Princess of Wales and Princes William and Harry, shared precisely how they spend the next two days:
When the Prince of Wales arrives, his valet will take him up to his room while his cargo is unloaded. All of his Christmas gifts get placed on trestle tables for each member of the royal family. The royals are of German descent so they weave in German traditions to their celebrations. After afternoon tea, they open gifts on Christmas Eve, as is the German tradition. Christmas morning, the family eats a hardy breakfast before heading off to church. After church, that's when they have a big lunch that includes a salad with shrimp or lobster, and a roasted turkey, and all of your traditional side dishes like parsnips, carrots, Brussels sprouts and Christmas pudding with brandy butter for dessert. They stick with the same meal year after year. Once they've eaten, everyone sits down and watches the Queen's Christmas speech. Afterward, they all go their own way before coming together again for afternoon tea and traditional Christmas fruitcake, then they gather again in the evening, where a buffet dinner with 15-20 different items awaits them. It's always a buffet with the chefs at the table carving. They don't do appetizers on Christmas like many do here in the U.S. Instead, appetizers and canapes are reserved for New Year's Eve.
One of the more Downton Abbey-esque traditions is one in which Her Royal Highness gets to serve those who usually serve her.
"Right before the Christmas buffet, the senior chef on duty goes into the dining room and carves the rib roast or turkey or ham and once he's done, Her Majesty presents the chef with a glass of whiskey and they toast. That's the only time the chef goes into the dining room and has a glass of whiskey with the royal family. It's one of the chef's favorite traditions."
While Buckingham Palace is always decked out with Christmas decorations, Sandringham is a private residence, and is therefore more modestly festive.
"The Queen is not lavish, so the décor is minimal. The Royal Family has a large Christmas tree and a large silver artificial tree in the dining room, which is about 30 years old."
Of course, like everyone else, the Queen has her indulgences for the holiday.
"The queen is a major chocoholic, particularly dark chocolate, so she always has a chocolate treat on Christmas. She also loves mint."
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