Many people across the world have different traditions for celebrating New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day - whether it’s eating 12 grapes at midnight for good luck, or opening all the windows and doors to let the bad luck out and let the good luck inside.
The British royal family is no exception to following traditions. In fact, this marks the second year the royals will be ringing in the start of a new year without the late Queen Elizabeth II. Since her passing in September 2022, King Charles III has taken over many beloved traditions once spearheaded by the Queen.
The royal family typically leaves Buckingham Palace just before Christmas and heads to Sandringham House, the late Queen’s country estate in Norfolk. Traditionally, the Queen would invite family members to celebrate the new year with her, including those who were unable to join her for the Christmas holiday.
It’s believed that the Queen normally remained at Sandringham after Christmas, until the anniversary of the passing of her father - King George VI - on 6 February. The former monarch died when he was 56 years old at the royal estate when the Queen was just 25 years old, though she was on a royal tour in Kenya at the time.
Charles Anson, former press secretary to the late Queen and the royal family, previously told The Independent that there’s much more emphasis on Christmas than New Year’s for the royals. “[There is] a long tradition of Christmas and party games – and things like charades have always been popular with the Queen – that started during the war when they were holed up at Windsor and couldn’t go out because of the air raids,” he said. “When they’re up at Balmoral at the summer period, the Queen always gives a dance with a lot of Scottish reels. But that’s more of an autumn event - the Ceilidhs at Balmoral.”
Every year, Queen Elizabeth II would host a small party at the estate, where she would make sure all of her family in attendance stayed up until midnight, including herself. The same rule even extended to the staff. The late Queen’s former private secretary - Sir William Hesletine - mentioned in the book, The Royals in Australia, that “nobody felt it right to go to bed before the Queen did.”
Royal family author Brian Hoey wrote in his book, At Home with the Queen, that another tradition included playing a game called “lucky dip” on New Year’s Eve. The game called for staff to bring in a tub, filled with sawdust and hidden pieces of paper, with predictions for the new year written on them.
On New Year’s Day, the family typically goes to church at St Mary Magdalene Church in Sandringham. The rest of the day is reportedly spent doing various outdoor activities, including horseback riding and pheasant shooting.
Despite many of the traditions being family-oriented, the Prince and Princess of Wales have not attended celebrations in the past, as they’ve previously spent New Year’s with Kate Middleton’s parents. The same goes for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, who currently reside in California since stepping down from their roles as senior working royals in 2020.
In the years leading up to Queen Elizabeth’s death, usual traditions had to be cancelled to accommodate both Covid-19 restrictions and the monarch’s ailing health. Last year’s celebration saw the return of the Sandringham House tradition, when King Charles and Queen Camilla rang in the start of 2023 with a visit to St Mary Magdalene Church - in honour of his late mother’s beloved ritual.