The royal family has a lot of holiday traditions as they retreat to Sandringham for their annual Christmas celebration, but one of their best is far from the regal public persona they often exude. Instead of exchanging exotic and expensive gifts fit for a Queen, the royal family engages in a spirited contest of who can give the funniest gag gift.
The royal family never publicly discloses what “cheap and cheerful” gifts they have given each other, and probably for good reason. A few details, however, have escaped over the years, according to 9Honey. Perhaps the most celebrated of the known gags has been Princess Anne’s gift to her brother Charles of a white leather toilet seat, which reportedly got under the skin of the Prince of Wales at the time but he reportedly now loves and travels with it. Another is Kate gift to Prince Harry when he was still single of a grow-your-own girlfriend kit. The Queen herself has been the beneficiary of the traditional silliness, as Prince Harry once gave her a shower cap that read “Ain’t life a (expletive deleted)?” An unnamed conspirator also gifted a t-shirt that read “I went to Buckingham Palace and all I got was a royal waste of my time”. The young Prince William received a Winnie The Pooh full set of china.
The tradition has also created the occasional heartache, as in the instance of the newlywed Princess Diana’s first Christmas at Sandringham in 1981. She was reportedly not made aware of the royal family tradition, and purchased expensive cashmere jumpers for everyone, only to be left embarrassed when the gifts were opened. According to The Fresh Toast, Diana received a toilet paper cozy that year. Diana came back strong the next year, giving Sarah Ferguson a leopard-print bath mat.
Meghan Markle, in her first Christmas with the royal family last year, gave The Queen a stuffed hamster that sings. The Queen was moved to laughter when the royal corgis snatched the gift from her hands, saying “They can keep my dogs company.”
“The crazier and the more quirky is what they love,” Princess Diana’s former chef Darren McGrady previously told People. “It’s not about something really amazing or a Cartier watch.”
The gag gift tradition is a departure from the royal family’s typically strict Christmas schedule. The royal family arrives in order of seniority, with Charles and Camilla arriving last. The Queen takes the public train from London to Sandringham. Prince Phillip presides over the Christmas Eve proceedings, as everyone leaves their gifts on a trestle table in the drawing room upon their arrival. After afternoon tea, the family then gathers for the gag gift celebration. The royal family trades gifts on Christmas Eve, following the German tradition, so that Christmas Day can be focused on the religious aspects of the holiday.
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