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Why the Queen kept her Christmas tree up for over a month



Cerith Gardiner - published on 01/10/20 - updated on 12/22/22

And how King Charles III will continue some key family Christmas traditions.

This will be the first year the royal family celebrates Christmas without Queen Elizabeth II. Thankfully, they’ll be able to hold on to some decades’-old traditions to help make the occasion extra meaningful, many of which were implemented by Elizabeth during her reign.

However, there were some more unusual traditions adopted by the Queen for some very personal reasons — notably, how she kept her Christmas tree up until February 6. 

Most years the late-sovereign spent the Christmas season at her private Sandringham house in Norfolk, on the east coast of England. It was her little hideaway from life at Buckingham palace — although, when we say little, it’s still enormous by most people’s standards, standing on a 22,000-acre estate. It also happens to be one of the few properties that was actually owned by the Queen herself (and not the state).

Karen Roe | Flickr CC by 2.0

The Queen’s father, George VI, was particularly fond of the house, writing to his mother Queen Mary, “I have always been so happy here and I love the place.” So it is perhaps fitting that Sandringham is where the King died of lung cancer in 1952.

For the Queen, who was particularly close to her father, it must have been bittersweet as it was full of cherished memories and marks some momentous occasions in her life — both happy and sad. After all, it is at Sandringham where her grandfather also died, she took accession to the throne, and where she normally delivered her annual Christmas address to the British people.

However, it was also a place where she liked to take the time each year to mourn her beloved father’s passing. Ordinarily, she stayed at the estate over the Christmas period until after the anniversary of his death, and after her accession day on February 6. And while the sovereign was there, the Christmas decorations stayed up.

While there are no exact explanations to the practice, keeping the Christmas tree up is possibly symbolic of the liturgical  way Christians marked the Christmas season all the way to the feast of the Presentation of the Lord (Candlemas as it is also called).

It also, no doubt, represents the happy times she spent there with her family, and with her father by her side.

Whatever the reasons, the tree is a beautiful tradition that represents faith and family.

It is uncertain what will happen with the tree this year. King Charles III will be at Sandringham to welcome his family over the Christmas period. However, while he will be taking part in the usual walk to the Christmas church service (apparently accompanied by his three grandchildren, Princes George and Louis, and Princess Charlotte), and making the annual address to the nation, not long after he is said to be heading to Birkhall in Scotland, where he normally stays into the new year.

While this might bring an end of the Sandringham tree’s extended presence, it will surely mark the beginning of new traditions that will hopefully bring comfort and hope to the royals as 2023 marks the coronation year for Charles III.

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