european-royals

Tradition and treats: what Europe's young royals can look forward to this Christmas

Mulenga Hornsby

The recent baby boom experienced in the palaces of Europe means that Christmas will be even more special this year. Joined by up to 30 relatives including grandchildren and great-grandchildren, the Queen will preside over a celebration that has hardly changed since her own childhood.

There'll also be plenty of thrills for the Swedish royal family, who had two births this year, those of Prince Oscar and Prince Alexander. In Monaco, where Princess Grace created their most important holiday traditions, the centre of attention will surely be twins Gabriella and Jacques, who turned two in early December, giving their parents a double dose of festive fun.

So just what can the royal youngsters expect when the season of goodwill kicks off?

><img width=VIEW GALLERY

Britain

On Christmas Eve the Queen's grandchildren and great-grandchildren put the finishing touches to the Christmas tree. Presents will be opened that day at tea time with gifts laid out in the Red Drawing Room on a trestle table. However, the monarch's gifts are unlikely to be pricey. Touchingly for people who have everything, the royals tend to buy each other jokey things. A white leather loo suit was the star item one year.

11 great gifts inspired by Duchess Kate

><img width=VIEW GALLERY

The royal matriarch decamps to her Sandringham estate, in the east of England, around 17 December. Other guests arrive at the 20,000-acre estate from 23 December in order of precedence, with Prince Charles usually the last to arrive. This year Prince William and Kate will be heading to Berkshire to spend quality time with Kate's parents, Carole and Michael Middleton, and will be bringing their young children Prince George and Princess Charlotte. "The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and their children will have a private Christmas day with the Middleton family," sources told HELLO! last week.

Meanwhile at Sandringham on Christmas Eve, a candle-lit dinner is served with the ladies in gowns and jewels and the men in black tie. On the morning of 25 December a full English breakfast is served. Then everyone attends church.

Afterwards it's back home for a turkey roast with all the trimmings, before everyone gathers at 3pm to watch the Queen's Speech. And the staff can finally put their feet up, as the family insist on serving themselves their own buffet supper.

><img width=VIEW GALLERY

Sweden

Perhaps the cutest holiday custom is the Swedish royal family's tradition of releasing a video of themselves baking cookies or decorating the tree. In their 2014 clip, Crown Princess Victoria and Prince Daniel were seen wishing royal fans a Merry Christmas, after which their daughter Estelle jumped out giggling from a pile of cushions to echo their message.

It's a double celebration on Christmas Eve as the day before is the birthday of Victoria's mother Queen Silvia. In honour of her German heritage there is always a Weihnachtsstollen, a fruit-cake soaked in brandy and covered with powdered sugar. In Sweden, a jellied fish dish known as lutefisk is also served at Christmas.

><img width=VIEW GALLERY

Denmark

Queen Margrethe's family is one of the most international royal clans. Her husband Prince Henrik is French and their daughter-in-law Princess Mary is Australian. Meanwhile, her sister Queen Anne Marie is married to the former King of Greece, with whom she has five children. So Christmas is a large international affair.

Celebrations kick off on Lille Juleaften, 23 December, when gifts are wrapped and the tree is decorated. On Christmas Eve before dinner children place a bowl of rice porridge out for Santa's helpers, known in Denmark as Julenisser. The Queen begins dinner with risalamande, a creamy rice pudding which contains a whole almond hidden inside. Then Danes tuck in to dishes such as roast goose or duck, pork, venison, caramel browned potatoes, red cabbage and cucumber salad. Desserts include rombudding, a creamy rum pudding served with chilled raspberry sauce, and aeblekage, a rich apple crumb cake. On New Year's Eve the Queen's speech is broadcast at 6pm, after which she spends the evening with old friends enjoying a masked ball and fireworks.

european-royals5

Spain

In the last few years Father Christmas has also made his way to Spain. So King Felipe and Queen Letizia's pretty lookalike daughters will wake up to find a small present under the tree. The royal couple host the customary Spanish Christmas Eve dinner in the Zarzuela Palace for his parents, the former sovereign, King Juan Carlos, and Queen Sofia. For New Year's Eve Queen Sofia will fly to Greece, where her brother, the country's former King Constantine, has lived since his return from exile in London.

Christmas gift guide: the best presents for kids

On the eve of Epiphany on 5 January, Spanish children traditionally receive gifts from the three Kings and eat roscon, a ring of brioche filled with cream and containing a present for one lucky child to find. It's an especially big day for the family, as it's also the birthday of patriarch Juan Carlos.

european-royals6

Monaco

In the 1950s Prince Albert's mother Princess Grace hit upon the idea of inviting underprivileged children to a party at which they were given gifts and chocolate milk made to a secret recipe including milk from the cows at her country retreat Roc Agel. "There was no television, practically no movies and definitely no internet or diversions like today," one Monegasque citizen told People. "So Princess Grace decided to offer children a day in the palace. It was a small gesture which has become a very big thing."

european-royals7

Belgium

One of the Belgian royals' cherished traditions is the carol concert held in the Palais Royal, the centrepiece of which is the Christmas tableau. Reflecting the country's different communities, King Philippe's Christmas speech is recorded in three languages – French, Dutch and German.

european-royals8

The Netherlands

Christmas comes early in the Netherlands, with the curtain raiser taking place when Santa - or Sinterklaas as he's called – arrives in November. Along with their three Princesses, Queen Maxima and King Willem-Alexander attend the harbourside parade to welcome Santa, who arrives by boat.

Every few years the couple opt to spend Christmas in Maxima's homeland, Argentina, at their estate in the spectacular Patagonian countryside near the Chilean border.

><img width=VIEW GALLERY

Norway

The family of King Harald and Queen Sonja spend Christmas at The Royal Lodge, Kongsseteren, a traditional farmhouse built in 1907 in the hills outside Oslo. There presents are placed under the tree by Santa Claus, helped by small gnomes known as Julenissen. Norway also gives a huge tree to the UK every year, where it takes pride of place in Trafalgar Square. This is a token of thanks for the aid given to the country by Britain during World War II.

><img width=VIEW GALLERY