No matter how you choose to celebrate it, Christmas is sure to be magical. ‘Tis the season of wonder, after all. And while we’re all for a very American holiday — maybe vegging out in front of the Christmas tree watching A Christmas Story or like, Keeping Up With The Kardashians, celebrating Christmas like a royal sounds lovely.
Clearly, we’re at a distinct disadvantage in one major regard: We aren’t actually members of the British monarchy. Still, that’s not to say we can’t borrow a tradition or two from the Queen and her crew to create our own version of a royal Yuletide. By nature, the royals embrace all kinds of rites and customs and never does that feel truer than around holidays. Parade, parties, luncheons, décor: They steep themselves in tradition this time of year. It’s probably a ton of work for them, TBH, but it makes it pleasantly easy to pick out a few royal holiday happenings to emulate in your own home.
Since the holidays are practically upon us, we decided to gift you an early present by knocking out the legwork. Here are some of ways you can celebrate Christmas like a royal. We think you’ll agree that, when all is said done, this holiday season may very well become your, ahem, crowning glory.
Well, this isn’t so different now, is it? You may already even send out Christmas cards every year. To do this royal style, though, you’ll need to have your photos taken and cards ordered by the summer — the Queen starts signing hers to send out while she’s on summer holiday in Balmoral.
The Pre-Christmas Luncheon
Each year during the week before Christmas, the Queen hosts a luncheon at Buckingham Palace for extended family. Judging by snapshots of Prince Harry, Prince William, their families and the rest of the royal gang en route to this annual meal, it’s a relatively formal affair.
This is an especially excellent idea to copy if you have a large extended family but would prefer to keep Christmas Day a bit cozier. To pull this off like the Queen, make it clear with your loved ones that you plan to host a luncheon on the same day every year (say, the Wednesday before Christmas). Bright idea? Take a family picture at the luncheon, then use that to make holiday cards and print them out in advance… Queen-style!
Oh, Christmas Tree(s)
Queen Charlotte is thought to have introduced the Christmas tree to the royal family, and the custom took off across the country. Although the royal holiday décor includes more than one tree, the Queen and close members of the royal family put the final touches on one tree that serves as the family’s holiday focal point. This is easy enough to copy, right? If you already decorate your tree as a family, you’ve been living like a royal without even realizing it.
But if you want to go for authenticity, you’ll need to incorporate a few more trees around your home, too. Each year, the Queen has three fir trees brought in to place in the Marble Hall at Buckingham Palace.
Christmas Eve Football
And by football, we mean soccer for Americans. But according to the Daily Mail, William and Harry favor a little friendly family competition on Christmas Eve at Sandringham. In the past, they’ve teamed up with staff as well as nearby villagers to play a charity game.
While the princes’ 2019 plans weren’t in sync for this game of pickup, it’s still a fun custom for families who live somewhere with mild enough winters to kick around the ol’ soccer ball. Plus, we imagine it’s a great way to burn energy while waiting for the official festivities to begin.
Christmas Eve Presents
Break out your finest tea set, ’cause you’re going to need it. According to the royal family’s official website, Christmas Eve includes laying out their presents on trestle tables. Then, over tea, they exchange gifts. Not only do they undoubtedly swap a few standard presents, but the royal family also reportedly gets a little silly with the exchange. According to the U.K.’s Express, each person buys a gag gift — Prince Harry is rumored to have gotten his grandma a “Ain’t life a bitch” bath hat one year, while Kate Middleton is hilariously said to have given Harry a grow-your-own-girlfriend kit (pre-Meghan Markle, naturally).
While most of us don’t have massive trestle tables or royal staff to serve us, Christmas Eve teatime can still be accomplished on a much smaller scale to similar effect. To echo the royal ambiance, create an elegant tablescape with tapered candles and fine china. Then create a playful juxtaposition by then trading cheeky gag gifts.
Christmas Day Services
Set aside your Sunday best, because being a royal means making your way to church every Christmas for not one but two services. The Queen and the rest of the royal family attend St. Mary Magdalene, Sandringham, which dates back to the 16th century — first for morning services at 9 a.m. and then later at 11 a.m. for public worship. When you’re planning what to wear, don’t forget a hat or a fascinator. The royals love festive headwear!
After the royals attend church, it’s time for the traditional Christmas feast. So, they head back to Sandringham for a lunch that includes shrimp or lobster, roasted turkey, and classic sides such as parsnips, carrots and Brussels sprouts. For dessert? Christmas pudding with brandy butter. Yum! The royal family reportedly has the same menu every year. So, with a little research, you can recreate a proper British lunch of your own to enjoy every Christmas.
The Queen’s Broadcast
Once everyone’s stomachs are full, they gather to listen to the Queen’s annual message that gets broadcast globally. Basically, it serves as a sort of congratulatory recap of special happenings that took place in the royal family over the past year.
How fun would it be to have the matriarch of your own family create a special year-end broadcast? Even if you simply share it with family, it would be fun to compile the highlights from each individual family that make up your entire family tree. Thanks to social media, sharing it will be a cinch.
Christmas Dinner Buffet
Here’s hoping that, in addition to that formal outfit for Christmas services, you also have some stretchy pants handy. Although the royal family reportedly has a hearty breakfast pre-church followed by a traditional lunch, they congregate again in the evening to enjoy a buffet dinner. Darren McGrady — former chef to Queen Elizabeth II, Diana Princess of Wales and Princes William and Harry — says this entails 15 to 20 different items. There’s a special pre-meal moment as well.
“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,” McGrady told Good Housekeeping. “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 favorite traditions.”
To adopt this tradition at home, consider re-dishing any leftovers to make for a more sophisticated display and then setting them out buffet-style. Make a big deal out of doing a ceremonial toast, since that part seems to really set the Queen’s Christmas dinner apart.
According to the U.K.’s Express, the royal family’s after-dinner activity of choice is a lighthearted round of charades. And yes, the Queen participates too! In fact, she’s apparently quite adept at impersonating heads of state she’s met over the years.
This is arguably one of the easiest and funniest royal holiday traditions to tackle. Whether it’s regular charades or one of the newer board games incorporating charades (Cranium, anyone?), the point is to spend time together laughing and enjoying each other’s company.
The Queen’s holiday gift-giving doesn’t end with her immediate family. She also spreads Christmas cheer in the community, starting with her staff. For her trusted employees, the Queen gifts 1500 Christmas puddings. So, uh, plan to spend a lot of time in the kitchen?
Or, if you’re not much of a domestic maven, you can always opt for the Queen’s other gift of choice: Christmas trees. Per the royal family website, she gives these evergreens out to Westminster Abbey, St. Paul’s Cathedral, St. Giles’ Cathedral, the Canongate Kirk in Edinburgh, and local churches and schools in the Sandringham area.