When it comes to Christmas, the royals have very special traditions that they have been following for decades. While some of the ways in which they carry out these traditions have slightly changed over the years, they're still quite interesting.
This year, Prince Harry is expected to break protocol and invite his fiancee Meghan Markle to join his family at Sandringham House, a privilege that Kate Middleton wasn't given while engaged to William.
"Now they are engaged it was unthinkable that they would be apart for Christmas," a source close to Prince Harry told the Sunday Times. "The royal family have fully welcomed Meghan into the fold."
If Markle does make the trip to Norfolk to spend Christmas with the Queen, there will be lots for her to do.
Here are 10 royal family traditions the Queen and her family participate in:
1. Spend Christmas at Sandringham House
In the week leading up to Christmas, the Queen and her family travel by public transportation to their “country house” in Norfolk, England. Sandringham House is smaller than the the other royal abodes, so only the Queen’s closest family members join her on the trip.
2. Watch a charity soccer game
In the recent years, Prince William and Prince Harry started a tradition of playing a soccer game alongside estate workers to raise funds for charity. Sometimes the rivalry gets really heated up. In fact, there’s usually some trash talk involved, two years ago, William shouted to a referee, "Give him yellow, give him yellow — backchat!"
3. Attend Christmas Eve tea
On Christmas Eve, the family convenes in the White Drawing Room and enjoy a special afternoon tea. Former royal chef Darren McGrady revealed that the menu usually includes scones and “jam penny,” which are sandwiches cut into circles the size of a penny.
The family also takes this opportunity to finish decorating the tree.
4. Exchange gag gifts
In case you weren't aware, the royals have a great sense of humor. After tea everyone gathers around to exchange funny gag gifts. Apparently Prince Harry once gave the Queen a shower cap with the phrase “Ain’t life a b**tch” etched on it.
5. Attend a black-tie dinner
The royals are extremely busy on Christmas Eve, not only do have a packed afternoon filled with various activities, they also have to attend a black-tie dinner. Unlike the afternoon tea, dinner is more formal and involves "something festive, some game, like pheasant or venison, and roasted wintery vegetables, like parsnips," according to former royal chef Darren McGrady. They also get to enjoy Dubonnet and gin cocktails, as well as cherry brandy and cider made on the estate.
According to sources close to the family, the Queen takes this opportunity to read some cheesy jokes from the Christmas crackers.
There's even more for them to do on Christmas Day...
6. Attend two church services
On Christmas Day, the family, with the exception of the Queen, walk to church together. They first attend a 9 a.m. private service during which the Queen takes communion. After a change of clothes, they return to the church of St. Mary Magdalene for public worship at 11 a.m.
7. Lunch with the family
Christmas Day lunch takes place in the Red Drawing Room, which is actually painted green. The menu usually includes turkey, traditional sides, and Christmas pudding.
8. Listen to the Queen’s speech
Once lunch is digested, it's time for the Queen to deliver her annual Christmas message, which is broadcast around the world. This year, the Queen is expected to congratulate Prince Harry and Meghan Markle on their engagement during her speech.
9. Play charades
The royals usually enjoy a light dinner buffet before taking part in a variety of evening activities, including watching a movie in the ballroom, playing board games, solving jigsaw puzzles, and a few rounds of charades. Apparently the Queen makes a great impressions of other heads of states.
10. Take part in a royal hunt
The main festivities come to an end on Boxing Day, but the Queen and some of the members of the family stick around at Sandringham until February. Prince Philip usually hosts a traditional pheasant hunt on the estate, and is often joined by his wife and their black Labrador.
What do you think of these traditions?