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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
Online 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 descentChristmas 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. On this week's episode of A Right Royal Podcast, Sally Goodsir, the curator of decorative arts at Royal Collection Trust explained: "Prince Albert celebrated the German tradition of opening gifts on Christmas Eve, and then Christmas Day would have been a bit quieter probably with the church service. Still a relatively large dinner but the big dinner the dinner we perhaps thing called on Christmas day to day, they would have enjoyed on Christmas Eve and it would have been things like turkey perhaps Swan, perhaps goose sort of a broader range of meats and things like plum pudding, we would have recognised some of the tastes and the smells at the Victorian Christmas dinner. " Listen to the full episode below.

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.

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

The royal family attend the Christmas Day service at Sandringham Church in 2022© Getty
The royal family attend the Christmas Day service at Sandringham Church in 2022

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 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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