April 25, 2024

During her 70-year reign, Queen Elizabeth II created countless holiday traditions adhered to by the royal family. Every year, the immediate family – married couples only, no girlfriends or boyfriends allowed! – would travel to Sandringham Estate in Norfolk, England, where they would enjoy a black-tie dinner on Christmas Eve and then attend morning mass on Christmas Day.

On Boxing Day, the day following Christmas, members of the royal family would head outside for horse riding and a pheasant shoot. “Christmas,” a source tells Life & Style exclusively, “was always the queen’s favorite time of year.”

Since her passing in September 2022, King Charles III, Queen Camilla and Prince William and Princess Kate have been working hard to usher in a more modern, updated monarchy – and with that comes new ways of celebrating the holidays.

“Charles and William and Kate are trying to relax the rules a little as the royals enter a less stuffy era,” says the source. Passionate environmentalist Charles, 75, for example, has been insisting gifts be sustainable and eco-friendly, while Kate and William, both 41, have put their three children on dessert duty. And unlike in years past, Camilla’s side of the family are invited – a surprise that thrilled the younger set.

“The goal is to make for a relaxing environment where everyone can unwind and be themselves,” says the source.

Changing of the Guards

The queen had rituals she followed religiously for decades. According to her longtime dresser, Angela Kelly, Her Majesty would change her attire up to seven times a day during holiday festivities – and female guests were required to wear five different outfits for breakfast, lunch, outdoor activities, tea and dinner.

“This year, Charles still wants guests to dress for the black-tie dinner, but they won’t be asked to change three or four times a day like they used to,” says the source.

The Prince and Princess of Wales won’t do away with all of the queen’s customs. “The royals will be honoring Her Majesty in a number of ways,” says the source, adding, “It brings them a great deal of pride, and serves as a coping mechanism as they continue to adapt to life without her.”

As Kate has said, “Her Majesty held Christmas close to her heart as a time that brought people together and reminded us of the importance of faith, friendship and family, and to show empathy and compassion.”

As usual, top members of The Firm will be front and center during the holidays, including the annual walk to church at Sandringham’s St Mary Magdalene, where Queen Victoria once worshiped.

“They’ll entertain carolers, enjoy healthy hikes and hunts and have plenty of get-togethers,” says the source. “Ensuring that the queen’s legacy is upheld is of paramount importance to everyone inside the House of Windsor.”

When it comes to gift-giving, the protocol will be a mix of old and new. “They’ll throw in the fun traditions, like exchanging joke gifts,” says the source, noting that the queen was adamant that presents didn’t break the bank. “They believe it’s the thought that counts. That’s a rule the queen insisted they follow wherever possible.”

In Prince Harry‘s memoir, Spare, he writes that he and William and their cousins opened presents on Christmas Eve night. “We were at Sandringham in a big room with a long table covered with white cloth and white name cards. By custom, at the start of the night, each of us located our place, stood before our mound of presents. Then suddenly, everyone began opening at the same time,” he recalled. (He and wife Meghan Markle will not be present.)

There are whispers Kate and William will be implementing new gift-giving rules this year, and that the kids may be allowed to open one present earlier in the day. “There’s always plenty of fun and entertainment to enjoy during the afternoon and into the evening,” says the source, adding that games are a big part of the festivities. “The family has always loved playing charades.”

Comfort & Joy

Charles’ invitation to Camila’s two children and five grandchildren – who range in age from 13 to 16 – was a welcome surprise, and family members are thrilled. “Things will be even more jolly and exuberant, as Camilla’s grandchildren are known for being the life of the party,” says the source.

Kate has always put kids first during the holidays. “She works overtime to make Christmas as magical as possible for them,” says the source. (Kate plans on spending time with the Middleton side of the family as well, including her brother James’ brand-new baby boy, Inigo.) Prince George, 10, Princess Charlotte, 8, and 5-year-old Prince Louis are in charge of the sweets this year.

“They are making dessert and are planning on making pies galore,” says the source, adding, “The children are right by Kate’s side building the gingerbread houses and making cookies helping with all the dinners during the holiday season – they love being involved.”

She’s been working closely with Camilla to ensure the holidays go off without a hitch. “Kate and Camilla are both fantastic organizers, so they complement each other very well. They’re making lists and sharing the load,” says the source. “It’s shaping up to be the most well-put together Christmas anyone in the family can remember!”

Copyright 2023 A360 Media. All rights reserved.

This story was originally published December 21, 2023, 3:29 PM.

source: star-telegram

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