This sounds like a new Hallmark Channel Christmas movie, but it is real. The reigning monarch of England, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, is officially canceling Christmas for 2021. Well, at least her celebration won’t be like normal years.
As with many traditions in England, the queen has a very specific set of customs that happen every year at the Sandringham Estate she occupies at Christmas in Norfolk. Typically, the queen will attend services at St. Mary Magdalene Church which goes all the way back to the 16th century. The family of the queen would normally gather for a turkey dinner in Her Majesty’s finely decorated home. Those in the family might join together for a pick-up game of football or even charades, too.
Darren McGrady, the queen’s former chef, spoke with Good Housekeeping and said that the queen allows her great-grandchildren to help her decorate the tree in her estate. And she will leave the tree up until February. At dinner on Christmas Eve, the whole family comes dressed in black tie formality. And the royal family will also usually participate in a gift exchange and a gag gift exchange to celebrate the festive holiday. Brian Hoey, a royal biographer, reported once that Prince Harry in 2013 gave his grandmother a shower cap that had written on it, “Ain’t Life a B****?”
But this year will be different. There won’t be any gag gifts and there won’t be a turkey dinner. There won’t be some of the traditions that have endured for centuries. The BBC has reported that Queen Elizabeth has decided to cancel her trip to Sandringham due to the spreading of the Omicron variant. Cases of this strand of COVID-19 are surging in the United Kingdom now.
The pandemic caused the royal family to skip their traditional Christmas gathering in 2020 as well. So this year, the queen will host an unspecified number of close family members in Windsor.
Aides that work for the queen in Buckingham Palace have described the cancellation as a personal decision that reflects the queen’s “precautionary approach.” One spokesperson gave an assurance that all appropriate guidelines would be followed for any gathering that takes place with the queen.
Her Majesty also canceled several appearances earlier this year because of health concerns. The BBC reported that she chose not to attend several public events including the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow. She also did not attend the Remembrance Sunday service due to the suggestion of her doctors.
Queen Elizabeth is now the longest-reigning monarch in British history. She has held this position on the throne for 70 years and is now 95-years-old. So it is understanding to see her respond with caution to avoid an illness. The queen’s husband, Prince Philip, died earlier this year in April at the age of 99. He would have turned 100 just two months later. The cause of his death was listed simply as “old age.” The queen and Prince Philip were married for 73 years before he passed. So Christmas 2021 will be the queen’s first holiday without her husband, and she will not be surrounded this year by her whole family.
The queen has not often shared her emotions publicly, but it is widely known how she feels about her beloved Christmas traditions. She has rarely changed any of the royal family’s traditions. This decision is likely a disappointment to her. She even surprised some by canceling her pre-Christmas lunch with extended family that was scheduled to be held in Windsor Castle.
It’s a sad day for the British family, but it also shows that precautions can be taken without being a killjoy. Perhaps Biden should take notes…