Britain’s royal family has Christmas traditions that date back centuries, but this year the family will have something new to celebrate: Meghan Markle’s first official Christmas as a member of the royal family.
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Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, was in 2017 the first fiancé to be invited by Queen Elizabeth to celebrate the Christmas holiday with the royal family at Sandringham, the queen’s estate.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex and Prince William and his wife Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and their three young children are all expected to spend Christmas in Norfolk with the royal family.
Last year, William and Kate hosted Harry and Meghan at their Anmer Hall home in Norfolk for the three-day-long celebration that is the royals' Christmas tradition.
Merry Christmas! The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince Harry and Ms. Meghan Markle have joined members of the Royal Family for the Morning Service on Christmas Day in Sandringham. pic.twitter.com/6DMRGFPntt— Kensington Palace (@KensingtonRoyal) December 25, 2017
The holiday season kicks off for the royal family when the decorations arrive.
Once the Christmas trees are decorated, the struggle is to keep the decorations on the trees, Queen Elizabeth II revealed in a documentary earlier this year.
“The problem is the children love knocking those [baubles] off,” she said at Buckingham Palace in "The Queen's Green Planet" on ITV. “My great-grandchildren do. Even the grandchildren still."
She added with a smile, "The great thing is to make them decorate it – then they’re a bit more careful."
The royal family gathers on Christmas Eve to exchange gifts, following the German tradition. Meghan will not have to worry about buying expensive gifts for her new relatives as members of the royal family will often swap funny gifts.
Kate, who wed Prince William in 2011, reportedly made homemade jam one year as gifts for her royal relatives.
On Christmas Day, they join the congregation for the morning service at St. Mary Magdalene Church in Sandringham. After the service, the royal family greets well-wishers outside the church before heading back to Sandringham for Christmas lunch. Lunch is traditional with local Norfolk roast turkey from the region, a salad with shrimp or lobster and vegetables such as Brussels sprouts, carrots and parsnips.
After lunch, the entire family sits down to watch the queen's annual televised Christmas message.
In the evening, the royal family gathers again for a Christmas buffet dinner with 15 to 20 different delicacies prepared by Queen Elizabeth’s chef. A toast is part of the meal, which ranges from roast beef to turkey and ham.
The day after Christmas, known as Boxing Day in the U.K., finds the royals partaking in the traditional Boxing Day pheasant shoot on the grounds of Sandringham.
Time with the in-laws
William and Kate have sometimes in the past opted out of the royals' Christmas dinner so they can enjoy Christmas evening with Kate's parents, Carole and Michael Middleton, her sister, Pippa Middleton, her brother-in-law, James Matthews, and her brother, James Middleton.
This Christmas marks the addition of two new grandchildren for the Middletons, Prince Louis, born in April, the son of William and Kate, and Arthur, born in October, the son of Pippa and James Matthews.
At the Middletons' home in Bucklebury, outside London, the grandchildren, who also include Prince George and Princess Charlotte, each have a Christmas tree in their room “so that they can decorate it themselves," Carole Middleton told the U.K.'s The Telegraph.
Duchess Meghan of Sussex is extremely close to her mom, Doria Ragland, so it is possible she and Harry may opt to spend time with her over Christmas as well. In-laws are not typically invited to the royals' Christmas celebrations.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have been paving their own way in the royal family since getting married in May. Last month they announced they will move from Kensington Palace, where William and Kate live, to Frogmore Cottage on the grounds of Windsor Estate, about 30 miles from London.