Church and chutney: Christmas fit for a Queen

Top of the tree: The Queen has reigned for 65 years — longer than any other British monarch.

Should we be more like the Queen at Christmas? Despite her opulent palace and extravagant decorations, the Queen’s Christmas Day is modest and traditional with no place for expensive gifts.

If you cannot decide what Christmas gifts to buy your loved ones this year, spare a thought for Meghan Markle — she must figure out what present to give to the Queen. However, her first royal Christmas may be less extravagant than expected.

Sure, the venue will be Sandringham House — an estate of 20,000 acres complete with a 20 foot Christmas tree. But the day itself is characterised by its modesty and formality.

Firstly: the all important presents. On Christmas Eve the royals exchange stockings of small gifts and fruit. The Queen herself prefers the practical present over the flamboyant.

Last year Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge, cooked her some homemade chutney: "I was slightly worried about it, but I noticed the next day that it was on the table," she said.

After the gifts, the whole family goes to church.

The religious aspect of the holiday is extremely important to the Queen, who often includes spiritual themes in her annual Christmas message. For example in her 2000 broadcast she claimed: “Even in our very material age the impact of Christ's life is all around.”

The rest of the Queen’s day is structured around a strict timetable and formal dress code — so Meghan may want to leave any garish Christmas jumpers at home.

Other Christmas traditions that we now all share were popularised by monarchs long ago.

For example, most people in Britain have only been decorating Christmas trees since the 1840s — the practice popularised by Queen Victoria and her husband Prince Albert.

And it was during the Victorian era that Christmas as we now know it began to take a recognisable form. In 1843 Sir Henry Cole made the first ever Christmas card. It featured a family of three generations feasting merrily together, as well as scenes of food and clothing being donated to the poor.

But should we be more like the royal family at Christmas time?

Family fun

The royals remind us of the true spirit of Christmas, some argue. The rest of us are too materialistic. We obsess over expensive gifts, and care more about impressing people on social media than truly caring for others. We should all take a leaf out of the Queen’s book by exchanging smaller presents, and thinking more about the spirit behind the festive season.

Let people make their own traditions, others respond. It is easy to have a frugal Christmas when you already have everything you need. For others, Christmas is a time of year to have a big party and treat their loved ones. And anyway, we should not obsess over the peculiarities of one family — the best Christmas traditions are those that bring joy to each individual, whatever they may be.

You Decide

  1. If you had to give the Queen a Christmas present what would you choose?
  2. Are we losing the spirit of Christmas?


  1. If you could invent one new Christmas tradition what would it be and why?
  2. Pick a Christmas tradition you are particularly fond of. It could be anything — from pulling Christmas crackers, to singing carols. Do some research and find out the historical origins of the tradition. Is the history surprising in any way? How far back in time can the tradition be traced?

Some People Say...

“For many, Christmas is a time for coming together. But for others, service will come first.”

Queen Elizabeth II

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
It is rare for the fiancée of a prince to be invited to Sandringham on Christmas Day. Neither Kate Middleton nor Lady Diana Spencer was invited for Christmas when they were engaged respectively to Princes William and Charles. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have confirmed that they will get married on May 19th 2018.
What do we not know?
We do not know exactly what the royal family will get up to on Christmas Day, but it has been reported that the Queen is a fan of party games — particularly charades. However, according to Prince Andrew the board game Monopoly has been banned in the royal household because the games “get too vicious”.

Word Watch

Sandringham House
The private residence of the Queen, built between 1870 and1892.
She has been going to the church service in Sandringham since 1988. She has only missed the occasion once when suffering from a heavy cold in 2016.
For example, the turkey lunch is scheduled to take just 50 minutes. There are also specific times allotted for the corgis to be taken for a walk, and for the Duke of Edinburgh to serve port and brandy to the male guests.
Dress code
Last year it was reported that Kate Middleton was required to change into five different outfits on Christmas Day.
The tradition originated in Germany. In Victorian times Christmas trees were decorated with candles, fruit, sweets, and handmade decorations.
Queen Victoria
Queen of the United Kingdom and Ireland from 1837 to 1901. Until 2015 she was Britain’s longest reigning monarch in history, before being overtaken by Elizabeth II.
Christmas card
Click on the final link under Become An Expert to see the card for yourself.

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