18 Royal Family Christmas Traditions We Didn't Know Existed

Every family has got Christmas traditions, but these are another level.

Royal Family Traditions | ELLE UK

The Royal Family like nothing better than a bit of tradition. They've got traditions for births, marriages, and everything in between. And that includes Christmas.

Most families stick to their long-loved festive routines, and the Royals are no different. Theirs are just a little more formal than ours...

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1 They send a LOT of Christmas cards

In fact, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip are thought to send around 850 hand-signed cards between the pair of them. Each royal family unit will send their own personalised card, like this one of Prince Charles and Camilla, sent in 2016.

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2 The Queen does her Christmas shopping at Harrods

While at 91, Queen Elizabeth probably now has help buying gifts for her loved ones, it's been reported that she previously enjoyed doing her own Christmas shopping. Wanting only the best for her family, Harrods would apparently stay open after hours just for the Queen, so she could shop at her leisure.

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3 All the Buckingham Palace staff are given gifts

Early in the year, all staff are given a choice between a gift token or a book token for their annual Christmas present from Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip. To qualify for the gift, they must have been in royal service for over a year, and the value of their voucher increases with seniority. Junior staff will receive a token worth £28, and this will increase every year to a maximum of £35. The week before Christmas, all staff-members are given their gift by the Queen in one of the State Apartments after the Head of Staff announces his annual report on their yearly performance.

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4 They spend Christmas at Sandringham House

The Royal family traditionally go to Sandringham House in Norfolk for their Christmas festivities instead of Buckingham Palace. The country retreat has been owned by the royal family since 1862, and serves as the perfect winter escape with the house being set in 24 hectares of gardens.

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5 The Queen hires out an entire train carriage to get there

She might be the head of the Commonwealth with access to her own private royal train and everything, but Queen Elizabeth prefers to travel to the Sandringham Estate ahead of Christmas just like everyone else. Sort of. She actually hires a whole carriage of an already-scheduled public train to King's Lyn to transport herself, Prince Philip and their immediate staff to Norfolk around a week before Christmas.

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6 The rest of the family arrive on Christmas Eve

The family members who are invited to spend the Christmas period with the Queen and Prince Philip at Sandringham are given a specific time to arrive on Christmas Eve. Each group will get a different time to turn up according to their status within the family. The most junior members will turn up first, and the most important - the likes of Prince Charles and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, for example - will arrive last.

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7 They have two Christmas trees

According to former royal chef Darren McGrady, "the Royal Family has a large Christmas tree and a large silver artificial tree in the dining room, which is about 30 years old."

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8 Partners of royal family members are only invited to join when they're married

Except Meghan Markle, that is; in a departure from royal protocol she's been invited to Sandringham for Christmas this year following the couple's engagement announcement in November. Convention states that only married couples are invited to Sandringham for Christmas, and it's usually stuck to; Kate Middleton wasn't allowed until she married Prince William in 2011, and neither was Zara Phillips' partner Mike Tindall before they got married.

But it's thought Prince Harry asked his grandmother to make an exception this year, due to Meghan's family home being so far away. Royal commentator Richard Fitzwilliams explained why he thinks the family were so happy to oblige despite their strict traditions: "Now they are engaged and she will shortly be a senior member of the royal family, it is pivotal that she feels an integral part of it as soon as possible."

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9 Everyone finishes decorating the Christmas tree together

After gathering at Sandringham House on Christmas Eve afternoon, the younger members of the royal family put the finishing touches on the trees. But if former royal chef Darren McGrady is to be believed, we can imagine the Queen sneaks back down later to make sure the kids haven't made them look a mess. "The Queen is not lavish, so the décor is minimal," he told Good Housekeeping.

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10 Prince William and Prince Harry play an annual game of football against one another

The two Princes traditionally take to the pitch along with locals and Sandringham staff on opposing teams for a game of Christmas Eve football. Usually, they'll wear the socks of their favourite teams (William supports Aston Villa and Harry supports Arsenal) but in 2015, they strayed from tradition to play on the same side - that of the local pub, The Black Horse Inn.

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