Nearly a week ago, it was reported that Prince Harry’s new fiancé Meghan Markle will celebrate Christmas with the Queen. What are the royal family traditions, Christmas decorations and most of all, what should Meghan expect on the Christmas menu?
Christmas with the Queen is traditionally at Sandringham House, located in Norfolk, not in one of the London-based castles. According to Good Housekeeping, the Queen arrives by December 20 to prepare for the holidays. Yet, the family does not arrive until December 24, in time for tea.
The Prince of Wales brings in the Christmas gifts, and they are laid on trestle tables until they are opened later on Christmas Eve.
According to the Queen’s former chef, Darren McGrady, as the royals “are of German descent,” their traditions are German. This means that the family opens their gifts on Christmas Eve, per “German tradition.” They open gifts immediately after they enjoy afternoon tea.
On Christmas morning, the family digs into a big English breakfast before heading to church. The family returns to Sandringham for lunch, which consists of either a shrimp or lobster salad, and then a roasted turkey with parsnips, carrots and Brussel sprouts. Dessert is a Christmas pudding with brandy butter.
Christmas pudding consists of dried fruits, and spices like cinnamon and nutmeg, baked in egg and possibly even suet and some brandy or cognac. After it is steamed, it is aged between a month and a year. This is a traditional dessert served in Great Britain for Christmas.
Then, it is time for the Queen’s speech, which everyone attends. After the family disperses for a while, they all return for afternoon tea, which includes a “traditional Christmas fruitcake.”
In the evening, there is a huge buffet, with “15-30 items” including many carving stations. But there are no appetizers, as those are only served on New Year’s Eve!
Any extra insights? It appears that Queen Elizabeth has a bit of a sweet tooth.
“The queen is a major chocoholic, particularly dark chocolate, so she always has a chocolate treat on Christmas. She also loves mint.”
As for Christmas decorations, McGrady explains that while Buckingham Palace is decked out in holiday decorations, Sandringham is a “private residence,” and the Queen keeps it simple.
“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.”
One tradition that McGrady especially likes is when the Queen pours the head chef a glass of whisky, and they toast.
“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.”
Like other families, the royal Christmas is steeped in traditional activities, shared with the family.