While most of us think of Christmas as being a time to relax with family, the holiday is a full royal occasion for the Queen and her family. The Queen always spends Christmas at her Winter estate, Sandringham, and guests are expected to follow her strict rules. Some variations from your traditional Christmas party include a choreographed arrival schedule from junior to senior royal family members, the opening of presents on Christmas Eve to preserve the religious element of Christmas Day, and guests bringing their own food and china to dine on. Since Sandringham is considered to be technically a court occasion, royal protocol is still observed, with proper bowing and curtsying and sticking to a strict dress code at all hours of the day. Guests also cannot go to bed before the Queen, who reportedly tucks in at midnight.
While guests typically arrive on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day is marked by the family's trip to the local Sandringham parish church, where crowds gather outside to give flowers to the Queen. The entire party will then travel back to the "big house," where they will eat lunch and then watch the Queen's pretaped Christmas message at 3 p.m.