9 Royal Holiday Traditions You’ll Want to Steal For Yourself
Each holiday season, the British royal family heads to Sandringham House to celebrate peace, joy, hope and their position as the most powerful monarchy in the free world. The festivities take place on a 20,000-acre estate, and will be reported on by nearly every tabloid, newspaper and women’s fashion magazine in the world—but rest assured, it’s not all champagne, caviar and crown jewels. Many of the royal family’s traditions seem surprisingly simple and sustainable, and to our delight, are easy to bring into our humble commoner homes. From travel plans to gifting ideas, here are nine ways to be inspired by royalty this Christmas.
Start signing your holiday cards in the summer
Okay, so it might be a little late for this one — but there’s always next year! The Queen is 92 years old and has one of the most demanding jobs in the business, and still, she manages to sign 750 Christmas cards every year. Her tactic is smart and simple: start early. It’s been reported that HRH signs the stack of cards during her summer holiday in Balmoral, and the palace has confirmed that she signs each one with a quick and breezy “Elizabeth R.” (The R is for “regina,” the Latin word for queen. You can adopt this practice too, if you’d like.)
Save cash by travelling via public transit
Instead of taking a horse and buggy, the royal train or driving herself—which is something she does, despite not having a driver’s license—the Queen travels to Sandringham Estate on a regularly scheduled service. The ride from London to King’s Lynn is just under two hours, and a first-class public train ticket costs $105 CAD. Affordable, fast and environmentally friendly—it sounds like someone may have read our holiday sustainability strategies.
Arrive to Grandma’s house in order of importance
Your invite to Christmas at Sandringham comes with a specific arrival slot, determined by your status within the family. Much like the tradition of the royal wedding, the earlier you arrive, the less important you are. That means the royals you don’t know the names of will show up first, and the heavy hitters (Charles, Will, Kate, Meghan) will be the last to arrive. This is an excellent protocol to enforce at your own holiday festivities: the higher your rank, the less time you have to spend with family. And, this way, the “important ones” will have a sizeable audience for their well-deserved grand entrance.
Decorate the house with two Christmas trees
Darren McGrady, the former royal chef and official royal gossip, revealed to Good Housekeeping that “the Royal Family has a large Christmas tree and a large silver artificial tree in the dining room, which is about 30 years old.” I think that’s the move: invest in a fake tree that will last forever, and splurge on a real one for outside. Maximum impact, minimal pine needle clean up.
Challenge your sibling to a Christmas Eve sports match
Every Christmas Eve, Prince Harry and Prince William go head to head in a soccer match with the estate staff. According to PopSugar, both princes “wear the socks of their favourite teams (Aston Villa for William and Arsenal for Harry).” A little pre-Christmas competition is a great way to work out any lingering family feuds—and a great way to work off any lingering gingerbread or fruitcake.
Make sure your gifts are outside of the box
Great gifts don’t need to be dusted in gold or crusted with diamonds. It has been well-documented that the British royal family—who are worth an estimated $88 billion—are big fans of “silly” gifts. “The crazier and the more quirky is what they love,” McGrady (that big mouthed former chef) told People. For example: it’s been reported that Kate gave Harry a “Grow Your Own Girlfriend” kit; that Harry gave Queen Elizabeth a shower cap with “Ain’t life a b*tch” printed on it; and that Prince Philip once unwrapped a light-up pepper mill. According to The Sun, “Prince Charles’s favourite-ever gift is reportedly a white leather toilet seat from Princess Anne, which he found so comfy that it now travels with him on his overseas tours.”
And so, instead of buying someone something they’ll probably never use, buy them something they’ll probably never use but will make them laugh when they open it. Who knows, maybe they’ll love it so much they’ll end up taking it around the world.
Present the chef with a glass of whiskey
“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 favourite traditions.” – Another quote from that tea-spilling chef, Mr. McGrady. Thank you for your service, sir.
So here’s the plan: hand Chef Mom/Gran/Dad/Aunt/Brother a glass of whiskey before diving into the holiday feast, and they’ll quickly forget that you didn’t offer to help peel the potatoes.
Serve your feast buffet-style
Rather than being tended to by servants over several plated courses, the royal family helps themselves to a holiday buffet. You know, like you do with your extended family when you go to The Mandarin. A self-serve family meal is another way to reduce your carbon footprint this Christmas: you ensure people only fill their plates with what they’ll actually eat, and you minimize food waste.
Let the holiday spirit linger
Too lazy to take your holiday decorations down the first week of January? Don’t sweat it! The Queen leaves hers up too. To honour her father, who passed away at Sandringham on February 6, 1952, the Queen hangs around her Norfolk estate—with the Christmas decorations still up—until the second week of February.