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Why King Charles and the royals exchange gifts on Christmas Eve

The monarch will spend the festive season at Sandringham

royals christmas
Danielle Stacey
Danielle StaceyOnline Royal CorrespondentLondon
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The royal family's Christmas holds many traditions, with King Charles following in the late Queen Elizabeth II's footsteps by spending the festive period at the Sandringham estate.

While those living in the UK associate Christmas Day with present giving, the royal family actually exchange gifts on Christmas Eve. But what's the reason behind it?

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Well, it's all to do with the King's ancestry, which is of German descent. Christmas celebrations start on 24 December in Germany when presents are exchanged. It's also usually the day when the Christmas tree gets decorated.

Known as Heiligabend Bescherung - which translates as Christmas Eve exchanging presents - the tradition was popularised by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.

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The late Queen Elizabeth II used to arrive at her Norfolk estate by train in the days leading up to Christmas. Meanwhile, immediate members of the family make their way to Sandringham before the big day and are said to enjoy an afternoon tea on Christmas Eve before exchanging gifts.

Afterwards, they dress for dinner, with the men in black tie and the women in evening gowns, with the table set with the finest dinnerware.

Royal family leaving church on Christmas Day 2019© Photo: Getty Images

The royal family's last Christmas Day walkabout in Sandringham in 2019

Christmas Day is a big day for the royal family as they attend the service at St Mary Magdalene Church on the Sandringham estate. 

While the annual walkabout has not taken place for the last two years due to the coronavirus pandemic, King Charles and Queen Consort Camilla are expected to be joined by the likes of the Prince and Princess of Wales and their three children for the walk to church this year.

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