How the royals celebrate Christmas

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This year the Duchess of Sussex is enjoying her first Christmas as a member of the royal family.

But the American former actress is in the rare position of already having spent December 25 with the Windsors.

She became the first non-married partner invited to Christmas lunch at Sandringham with the Queen in 2017.

Royals attends Christmas Day Church service
The Queen on Christmas Day in 2017 (Joe Giddens/PA)

The traditions followed by the royal family at Christmas are a little different from many households in the UK.

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The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, who are expecting a baby, are spending their first Christmas together as a married couple (Kirsty Wigglesworth/PA)

Known as Heiligabend Bescherung (which translates as Christmas Eve exchanging presents), the tradition was popularised by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.

The Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh and other royals usually congregate in the White Drawing Room at Sandringham House the day before Christmas to put the finishing touches to a 20ft (6m) tree cut from the estate.

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The Queen and the Duchess of Cornwall placing baubles on a Christmas tree during a visit to open the new Barnardo’s headquarters in Ilford, east London, in 2013 (Chris Radburn/PA)

The Queen likes practical presents, but not overly extravagant ones, and the royals also reportedly like to exchange joke or non-costly quirky gifts.

Kate revealed that she was left stumped over what to buy the monarch for Christmas during her first stay at Sandringham.

“I thought back to what would I give my own grandparents. And I thought ‘I’ll make her something.’ Which could have gone horribly wrong,” the duchess said.

“But I decided to make my granny’s recipe of chutney. I was slightly worried about it, but I noticed the next day that it was on the table.”

Diana, Princess of Wales, once fell foul of the royal rules on present-giving, apparently buying cashmere sweaters as her first festive royal presents, and getting joke gifts such as a loo-roll holder in return.

At 5pm, guests enjoy tea, scones, sandwiches and cakes from sideboards in the Saloon.

The Prince of Wales at an afternoon tea
The Prince of Wales enjoying an afternoon tea at St James’s Palace in 2014 (John Phillips/PA)

Sarah, Duchess of York, once described the royal Christmas as “exhausting”, having changed outfits seven times in 24 hours.

Sometime after 10pm, on a signal from the Queen, the dorgis are led out and the ladies adjourn, leaving the Duke of Edinburgh to serve port or brandy to the men.

Royals attend church
Philip and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge at Sandringham on Christmas Day 2017 (Joe Giddens/PA)

Their walk to the morning service at the Church of St Mary Magdalene on the royal estate is a traditional event where they greet well-wishers.

Back at the house, lunch is prepared by their staff and served at 1pm, and the royals indulge in a giant turkey, reared at Sandringham.

Christmas dinner
The royals enjoy a traditional Christmas lunch with all the trimmings (David Davies/PA)

The Queen sometimes quietly leaves the room and lets her family watch the national address by themselves, as she views it alone to see how it comes across.

Boxing Day, when the royals enjoy a breakfast buffet of kedgeree, bacon and eggs, often involves outdoor pursuits such as shooting, riding and walking.

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