Why the Royal Family open their presents on Christmas Eve

Dec 19, 2021
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. Source: Getty

Every December, the Windsors make their way to the Queen’s Sandringham Estate to celebrate the holidays. Like many families around the world, the British royals are known to have a unique set of Christmas traditions. 

But unlike those living in the UK, who associate Christmas Day morning with present swapping, the Royal family exchange their gifts on Christmas Eve to honour their German heritage. 

Traditionally, the 95-year-old monarch arrives at her Norfolk estate by train in the days leading up to Christmas. Other royal family members will make their way to Sandringham immediately after, then on Christmas Eve, the family will enjoy afternoon tea before exchanging gifts. 

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert popularised Christmas trees as a holiday staple. Source: Getty

The annual tradition was first started by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, who wanted the family to adopt the German Christmas tradition of opening presents on December 24. 

Royal commentator Robert Jobson had previously told New Idea that the Queen and other royal family members had been following the Victorian Christmas tradition for decades, since it was first introduced by Prince Albert. 

“On Christmas Eve when all the clan is together, the Queen’s grandchildren and great-grandchildren put the finishing touches to the 20ft Christmas tree in the White Drawing Room,” Jobson said.

Jobson claims the family has continued to uphold this tradition and has never steered away from it. 

Former royal chef Darren McGrady shares the same sentiment, telling Good Housekeeping the Royal family’s Christmas traditions are sacred, even sticking “with the same meal year after year”. 

The Royal Family and guests will usually enjoy a buffet feast as part of their Christmas traditions. Source: Getty

McGrady shared that after coming together to watch the Queen’s Christmas speech, the family “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”. 

Another one of their Christmas traditions is where Her Royal Highness serves those who usually serve her. 

Christmas dinner is always a buffet with the chefs at the table carving. Source: Getty.

“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,” McGrady said. 

The monarch will reportedly host her the festivities again this year, having missed it last year due to Covid-19, this will mark her first Christmas without her late husband, Prince Philip

What are some of your most precious Christmas traditions?

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