The British Institute of Rome



At Sandringham

Christmas Eve

True to their German origins, every Christmas Eve, the Royal Family exchange their gifts at teatime. The gifts are often funny jokes, such as singing toys, shower caps, and even a leather toilet seat.

Sandringham hosts a formal, candle-lit, six-course Christmas Eve dinner, and the real evening celebrations begin! Gowns, glittering jewellery, and twinkling tiaras are all encouraged, and even a little drink!

Christmas day

The day begins with a hearty pre-church traditional breakfast of eggs, bacon, and sausages!

Then, off to church: St Mary Magdalene, a 16th-century country church on the estate of Sandringham where the family traditionally gather for the Christmas Day service, which lasts around 45 minutes.

Christmas lunch

Takes place in the Royal Dining Room, where the table is laid with a silver service set that was gifted to George V and Queen Mary in 1935, to mark their Silver Jubilee.

The meal usually includes a starter, such as salad with shrimp or lobster, then a second course of roast turkey with sage and onion stuffing, traditional side dishes, such as parsnips, carrots, and Brussel sprouts, all followed by Christmas pudding with brandy butter for dessert!

After enjoying a hearty lunch, the royal family would gather to watch the late Queen’s Christmas speech on television, like millions of families across the UK, and beyond. In fact, in 2021, over nine million people tuned in to watch the speech.

After watching the speech, the late Queen Elizabeth would often invite family members to help her in completing one of her favourite jigsaw puzzles with a cup of afternoon tea and a slice of Christmas cake.

Fun facts:

  1. The Royals get weighed before Christmas dinner …The tradition of weighing guests dates back to the reign of King Edward VII, 1901 to 1910. Weight gain during the stay was considered a measure of how much the guests enjoyed themselves!
  2. The late Queen Elizabeth was known to love a Dubonnet cocktail – so much so that in November 2021 the brand was awarded the Royal Warrant!
  3. Following her grandfather’s tradition, the Late Queen would always gift around 1,500 Christmas puddings to the palace staff and security forces, thanking them for their service.

On Christmas day the family all stay up well past midnight playing games. In fact, the royal protocol insists that no one can go to bed until the monarch does!