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Last Updated: Sunday, 25 December 2005, 10:25 GMT
What is a right Royal Christmas?
The Queen
The Queen refuses to wear a paper party hat
The Royal Family spend Christmas at Sandringham, the Queen's Norfolk estate - but how do they celebrate?

On Christmas Eve, the family gathers in the White Drawing Room around a 20ft Christmas tree - cut from the estate and traditionally decorated by the Queen herself.

Name cards on white-linen-covered trestle tables indicate where they are to place eachother's presents.

At 5pm, the family helps themselves to tea, cake, muffins, scones and sandwiches, from sideboards in the Saloon.

Everyone drinks Earl Grey - except the Queen, who enjoys her own exclusive blend of Indian tea.

But by 6pm they are back around the tree awaiting the Queen's signal to start unwrapping their presents.

Opening gifts on Christmas Eve is a German tradition, and the Royals' presents tend to be practical and inexpensive.

The church on the Sandringham estate, where the Royals attend a Christmas morning service
Crowds gather outside St Mary Magdalene church

Eagerly opening a gift-wrapped washing-up apron one year, the Queen reportedly said: "It's just what We wanted."

Another Christmas, the monarch was reportedly made merry by the gift of a casserole dish.

The younger Royals are the exception to the nothing-too-extravagant rule - each receives an over-sized Christmas stocking stuffed with pricey princely prezzies.

When all the gifts have been opened, the Royals retire to dress for dinner - reconvening for cocktails in the Saloon.

All the adults drink gin and tonic - except the Queen, Prince Philip and Prince Charles, who enjoy dry martinis.

Dinner by candlelight, served at 8.30pm, is a black-tie affair, for which the finest china and silverware is laid out on the dining table decorated with Christmas flowers from the Sandringham nurseries.

Norfolk shrimps, lamb or locally-shot game may be followed by tarte tartin with brandy creme or a souffle.

White wine is served with the hors d'oeuvre, claret with the main course and champagne with the dessert.

Sandringham, the Queen's Norfolk estate
The Royal Family spend Christmas at Sandringham

After 10pm, on a signal from the Queen, the corgis are led out and the ladies adjourn, leaving Prince Philip to serve port or brandy to the men.

On Christmas Day, the family awakes to stockings, stuffed with small gifts and fruit, at the foot of their beds, and a full English breakfast is served.

By 11am, crowds are gathering outside St Mary Magdalene, the church on the estate where the Royals attend a Christmas morning service.

For Christmas lunch, at 1pm, a giant turkey, reared on the estate, is served with all the trimmings.

The family enjoys pulling Christmas crackers - but the Queen refuses to wear a paper party hat.

Cracker jokes they have enjoyed include "What kind of fish do you find in a birdcage? A perch!" and "What's musical and handy in a supermarket? A Chopin Liszt!".

But at 3pm the laughter comes to an end, as all the Royals settle down in the Saloon, warmed by a log fire, to watch the Queen's Christmas Day speech on the television.


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