Of course, there's a fruitcake.
Every family has their own traditions, regardless if they reside in the South or across the pond. Some people like to open one gift or a stocking on Christmas Eve. Others prefer to unwrap presents before the big holiday dinner on Christmas Day. We must admit we don’t know which gift-opening tradition Prince George and Princess Charlotte will take part in this season. But, we do have some insight as to what they’ll be noshing on when they gather at their great-gran’s modest estate—the Sandringham House in Norfolk, England—on Christmas Eve.
Thanks to royal chef, Darren McGrady, who previously worked for the royal family from 1982 through 1993, we now know what will be on the holiday table when the wait staff utters, “Your Royal Highness, dinner is served.”
According to McGrady, when Charles, the Prince of Wales, arrives at Sandringham House, a valet escorts him up to his room while the other valet workers unload the car packed with Christmas gifts. Those gifts are then "placed on trestle tables for each member of the royal family."
"The royals are of German descent so they weave in German traditions to their celebrations," said McGrady. "Christmas morning, the family eats a hearty breakfast before heading off to church. After church, that's when they have a big lunch that includes a salad with shrimp or lobster, and a roasted turkey, and all of your traditional side dishes like parsnips, carrots, Brussels sprouts and Christmas pudding with brandy butter for dessert.”
Revered for being die-hard traditionalists, McGrady added that the royal family eats the same meal every year. Although it's a common eating ritual stateside, McGrady also mentioned the royals skip the appetizers on Christmas. They prefer to save the dainty, bite-sized foods and canapes for New Year’s Eve instead.
"Once they've eaten, everyone sits down and watches the Queen's Christmas speech," McGrady said. "Afterward, they all go their own way before coming together again for afternoon tea and traditional Christmas fruitcake, then they gather again in the evening, where a buffet dinner with 15-20 different items awaits them. It's always a buffet with the chefs at the table carving.”
It’s also nice to know that Queen Elizabeth II appreciates a little chocolate indulgence on the most happiest day of the year.
"The Queen is a major chocoholic, particularly dark chocolate, so she always has a chocolate treat on Christmas," McGrady recalled. "She also loves mint."
Which is evident considering she always has a few mints tucked away in her classic black patent leather handbag.
There’s one tradition, however, that doesn’t exactly align with what you’d see in the South. For Southerners who typically host Christmas dinner for family and friends, creating the perfect centerpiece is almost as important as making sure the lacquered holiday ham doesn’t burn. But despite all the jewels, cars, and horses in her possession, Queen Elizabeth typically scales it back when it comes to decorations.
"The Queen is not lavish, so the décor is minimal," McGrady added. "The royal family has a large Christmas tree and a large silver artificial tree in the dining room, which is about 30 years old."
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A posh feast filled with turkey and all the trimmings, framed by simple yet festive table décor—maybe the royals are just like us after all.