Breaking tradition: Royals bypass Sandringham get-together

Christmas at Sandringham is about family and tradition.

It's light-hearted moments where the Royals come together to play board games or exchange gifts and more formal ones dictated by extremely strict protocols developed over decades.

For those lucky enough to make the list, it means having up to seven outfits ready for Christmas Day alone - and that doesn't include a pair of stretchy pants for dinner.

But after a year plagued by coronavirus, lockdowns and scandal, it appears Christmas will be a much more toned-down affair with everyone spending the holiday apart.

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh will instead spend the holiday at Windsor Castle, celebrating "quietly" at their Berkshire residence.

That means we won't be seeing the usual snaps of the family strolling to St Mary Magdalene church in Sandringham for the Christmas service.

Instead, the BBC reports that the Queen will skip church on Christmas Day to avoid large crowds. Her Christmas Day speech will be broadcast at 15:00 GMT.

As for the other members of the Royal family, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge haven't confirmed what they'll be doing yet, telling a crowd earlier this month that "it's difficult to know what to do for the best".

Prince Harry and Meghan's plans are also still in the air, although there are reports they may be spending it at their home in the United States with Meghan's mother, Doria, following others in the family in having a more scaled-back festive season.

Meanwhile, the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall have confirmed they'll spend the December 25 at their estate in Gloucestershire.

It is also understood that some family members will visit the Queen and Prince Phillip over the holidays, though not much is known about who will make the list and where they will visit.

The Royal family usually spends Christmas at the Queen's private estate in Sandringham.

And it wouldn't be a Royal event without its rules and traditions - including a process for how guests are supposed to arrive on Christmas Eve.

The idea is that the family appears in reverse order of succession - so Princess Beatrice is not allowed to get there after her cousin, Prince William.

That would be considered rude.

The idea is that they all meet at the estate on Christmas Eve for an afternoon tea and finish decorating their six-metre-high tree.

It's typically adorned with regal-themed baubles - including mini crowns, a golden throne, a piper wearing a kilt, and mini corgis.

Gifts are also exchanged the day before Christmas in a nod to the Windsor family's German heritage. They are meant to be simple or funny, rather than extravagant.

Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, for instance, gave the Queen handmade chutney at her first Christmas with the Royals.

"I was slightly worried about it, but I noticed the next day that it was on the table," the Duchess of Cambridge said in a documentary made in honour of the Queen's 90th birthday.

"I think such a simple gesture went such a long way for me."