The Queen delivers the Christmas BroadcastThe Queen delivers the Christmas BroadcastThe Queen delivers the Christmas Broadcast

A Royal Christmas

How does The Queen celebrate Christmas?

The Royal Family traditionally spends Christmas and New Year at Sandringham House. The Queen's country estate in Norfolk. During the sixties, when Her Majesty's children were small, many Christmases were celebrated at Windsor Castle, where The Royal Family spends Easter. But since 1988, when the castle was being rewired, Royal Christmases returned to Sandringham.

Decorating the Royal Christmas tree at Palace of Holyrood

Is the Christmas tree a Royal Tradition?

Queen Charlotte, consort of George III, is thought to have introduced the Christmas tree to the Royal Family. The later enthusiasm of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert for the custom helped spread the popularity throughout the country. Today, The Queen and Members of her family, will usually put the final touches on their Christmas tree.

The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh in New Zealand on Christmas Day in 1953

Do The Royal Family give each other presents?

On Christmas Eve, The Royal Family lay out their presents on trestle tables and will exchange their gifts at teatime.

Inside The Royal Palace at Christmas

Does The Royal Family go to Church on Christmas Day?

The Queen and other members of The Royal Family attend the morning service on Christmas Day at St Mary Magdalene, Sandringham, a country church visited by The Queen's Great-Great Grandmother Queen Victoria, which dates back to the 16th century.

The Royal Family attend church on Christmas Day in Sandringham

Who is on The Queen's Christmas Card list?

Each year, The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh send around 750 Christmas Cards, which will usually feature a family photo. The card is signed 'Elizabeth R' and 'Philip' and features their official cyphers. Family, friends, and Members of The Royal Household will likely be the recipients of The Royal Christmas Card, but British and Commonwealth Prime Ministers, Governor-General and High Commissions may also be sent one. The Duke of Edinburgh has a further 200 cards sent out at Christmas to different regiments and organisations close to him. 

Buckingham palace in the snow

What other Royal Christmas traditions are there?

All members of The Royal Household will receive Christmas presents from The Queen, and Her Majesty will personally hand out presents to some members of The Royal Household at Buckingham Palace and at Windsor Castle.  

Continuing the tradition from her father, King George VI and her grandfather, George V – The Queen also gives Christmas puddings to her staff.  About 1500 Christmas puddings paid for by The Queen (through the Privy Purse) are distributed to staff throughout the Palaces, staff in the Court Post Office and Palace police. Each pudding is accompanied by a greeting card from The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh.

As well as donating money to several charities in Windsor each Christmas, The Queen also gives Christmas trees each year to Westminster Abbey, St. Paul's Cathedral, St. Giles' Cathedral and the Canongate Kirk in Edinburgh. Churches and schools in the Sandringham area will also receive a tree from Her Majesty.

History of Christmas Broadcasts

The Queen and George V Christmas Speech

The first Christmas Broadcast was delivered by George V in 1932 and since then has evolved into an important part of the Christmas Day celebrations for many in Britain and around the world.

The Christmas Broadcast is an intrinsic part of Christmas Day festivities for many people across the Commonwealth.

Each Broadcast carefully reflects current issues and concerns, and shares The Queen's reflections on what Christmas means to her and to many of her listeners. Over the years, the Christmas Broadcast has acted as a chronicle of global, national and personal events which have affected The Queen and her audience.

Christmas trees arrive at Buckingham Palace

Did you know that the Christmas Tree was introduced to Britain by Queen Charlotte, consort of King George III?

Every year, three trees are placed in the Marble Hall - and a garland is fixed along the grand staircase. 

The custom of displaying Christmas trees was introduced to Britain in the late 18th  by Queen Charlotte, consort of George III, although it was a yew tree rather than a fir that was used. The Christmas tree was popularised by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in the nineteenth century.


How Royal Chefs make mince pies

'Give yourself plenty of time,' says Royal Pastry chef Kathryn Cuthbertson — It's her number one tip to anyone making mince pies this Christmas.

'Pastry is not something that likes to be rushed,' agrees Chef de Partie, Victoria Scupham, who Kathryn hired six years ago to work alongside her. They also recommend 'having cold hands' when working with pastry,  which will help keep it at the right consistency.

Together they now have over 17 years experience inside the Royal Kitchens and will create over 1200 mince pies for each of the festive receptions held at the Palaces around Christmas time. 'It's probably thousands each,' laughs Kathryn, when asked for the exact calculation, 'but as long as you are organised, it's doable.'

Royal Chefs also create different variations of the classic mince pie; one is slightly smaller than the traditional, with flaked almonds brushed with egg whites and icing sugar, 'to add a bit of texture,' says Kathryn. Another version is made with puff pastry.

Scroll to the bottom of this page for the Mince Pie recipe.

Everything from the mincemeat to the pastry is handmade by the small team in the kitchens at Buckingham Palace. The mincemeat is made months in advance and stored in the pantry.

For today's reception, one of many hosted during the season for charities and organisations close to members of The Royal Family, Kathryn and Victoria are also making gingerbread biscuits from scratch, decorated with white icing. 

'You can even use them to hang on the Christmas tree,' says Victoria. 'The biscuits are sturdy enough to hold a ribbon and the best thing is they last a while – so you can make them in advance.'

Victoria is also busy making Sablés à la Confiture, better known to most as Jammy Dodgers, with homemade jam.

For chocolate lovers, there's also the roulade, cut up into slices and served to guests on silver platters.

All the recipes are included in Royal Collection Trust's book, Royal Teas: Seasonal Recipes from Buckingham Palace. 

Festive Mince Pies


For the Mincemeat
zest and some juice of 1 unwaxed lemon
zest and some juice of 1 unwaxed orange
2 tablespoons brandy
1 tablespoon of port 
1 tablespoon of rum
1 tablespoon of sherry
120g (1 cup) suet
160g (3/4 cup) golden sultanas
100g (1/2 cup) raisins
100g (1/2 cup) mixed peel
100g (1/2 cup) currants 
1/2 teaspoon of ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon 
1.2 teaspoon ground cloves
160 (6oz) russet apples, peeled and grated
500g (1lb 2 oz) sweet pastry
Egg washed for sticking lids on the bases
Granulated sugar for the top of the mince pies before baking
Icing sugar for dusting 

12 hole non-stick shallow baking tray /
mince pie tin 32 x 24 cm/ 12.5 x 9"
fluted or plain cutters 


Place all the dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl and stir. Then add all the liquid and grated apple and allow to soak for at least one week in a 1kg kilner jar sat in the fridge or pantry.

Preheat the oven to 190° C (375° F, gas mark 5)

Roll the sweet pastry into a sheet approximately 2 to 3 mm thick, place on a tray, and allow to rest in the fridge. Once rested, cut tops and bottoms for your mince pies using fluted or plain cutters (selecting sizes to fit your tin). Place the pie bases into the tin and prick them with a small knife or fork to prevent the pastry from rising during the baking.

Spoon a teaspoon of the home-made mincemeat into the base and egg wash the edge of the pastry to enable the lids to stick. Place the mince pies in the fridge to rest for another 30 minutes, then add a pastry top to each, egg washing it and pricking a small hole in the top to allow the steam to escape. Sprinkle with granulated sugar.

Place the baking tray on the middle shelf of the preheated oven and bake the pies for about 15 minutes, or until the pastry turns golden and the mincemeat starts to boil slightly. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly before taking the pies out of their tin.

Sprinkle the mince pies with icing sugar and serve immediately. To add a festive feel, the mince pie tops could be shaped with a star cutter or perhaps a holly-shaped cutter.

A History of Royal Christmases

William the Conqueror is crowned King on Christmas Day

'Did you know that William the Conqueror was crowned on Christmas Day in 1066? See a timeline of the astonishing history of Royal Christmases here.