Every year, the British royal family heads to the Sandringham estate in Norfolk, England, to enjoy its Christmas celebrations. The estate has been the private home of four generations of British monarchs since 1862 and the annual retreat is steeped in tradition and quirky conventions.
According to a new Channel 5 documentary, “Inside Sandringham: Holidaying With The Queen,” those traditions influence everything from transport to arrival schedules, decorations, and even, surprisingly, the cocktail Queen Elizabeth II drinks to kick off the Christmas festivities.
Unlike most of the rest of Britain, the royal family’s celebrations begin on Christmas Eve, a tradition that stems from the family’s German roots. Before the family is allowed to exchange gifts, however, the queen must raise a toast with her festive drink of choice: a Martini.
“I think the queen likes a Martini, other people would rather have Champagne,” Ingrid Seward, royal expert and editor of Majesty magazine said in the documentary. “Prince Philip isn’t a great drinker, he always used to drink pale ale.”
Whether it’s a gin or vodka Martini wasn’t made clear, but we’re going to guess the former. And while it seems somewhat unlikely, if the queen happens to enjoy one too many on the night of the 24th — no judgment here! — the following morning always begins with a lavish buffet that sounds like it would help with any ill-effects.
The family then sits down to eat its Christmas lunch at 3 p.m., as is traditional for the whole country. “We all think it’s terribly formal, but really [the Royal Family] have a wonderful relaxed time at Sandringham like the rest of us,” royal writer Richard Kay told Country Living.