Millions of people around the world celebrate Christmas on December 25. Many of them put up a Christmas tree as part of their celebration. For many, setting up the tree is a tradition that takes place around the time of the American Thanksgiving holiday to kick off the season. Somewhere around the first or second week of January is traditionally when most people take them down, as New Year’s Day and the 12th day of Christmas (January 6) are seen as marking the end of the holiday season.
Queen Elizabeth II, however, although a woman of tradition, ignores this particular custom and keeps her Christmas tree and other Christmas decorations up until February — February 6 to be exact — and the Mirror reports that there’s a truly touching reason why she does so.
The queen and the rest of the royal family celebrate Christmas at Sandringham House in Norfolk, England. While the rest of the family departs from Sandringham following the festivities, the queen stays on until February 6, the anniversary of the death of her father, King George VI. He died in his sleep at the age of 52 at Sandringham, when Elizabeth was 25-years-old. She was in Kenya at the time and cut her trip short to return home.
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A month after she became queen, Elizabeth II wrote a letter to the king’s private secretary, Sir Eric Mievill, and touched on the impact her father’s death had on her, saying, “It all seems so unbelievable still that my father is no longer here and it is only after some time has passed one begins to realize how much he is missed.”
The letter continues with expressions of gratitude for her family, whose support helped her as she grieved. She also indicated that she is thankful that her father died peacefully in his sleep.
There are other Christmas traditions Queen Elizabeth II practices every year. Hello! Magazine reports that the royal family gives Christmas trees to all the churches and schools in Sandringham every holiday season. Trees are also given to St. Paul’s Cathedral, St. Giles’ Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, and Canongate Kirk.
The queen has also continued a holiday tradition begun by her father, in which all members of the palace staff are gifted Christmas puddings, totaling about 1,500. Each gift comes with a card from both Queen Elizabeth II and her husband, Prince Philip.
The entire royal family also continues a tradition that dates back to the reign of Queen Victoria — attending a Christmas morning church service at St. Mary Magdalene church in Sandringham. The church has existed since the 16th century.