As the holiday season approaches, many of us will be busy buying presents, testing out Christmas recipes, and organising festive feasts for our loved ones, so it’s only befitting to ensure you host an impeccable dinner party.
Zarife Hardy, Director of the Australian School of Etiquette, shares her etiquette tips and reflects on some royal traditions so you can celebrate Christmas as the Royals would.
The Royal Family have traditionally spent Christmas Eve together at the Queen’s country home, with the grandchildren putting the finishing touches to the tree. Holiday rituals in the royal household today come from ways of celebrating popularised by Queen Victoria herself. Some of these traditions have become the accepted way we celebrate Christmas nowadays.
The Royals will lay out all their presents in the drawing room, opening their gifts on Christmas Eve. The Monarch’s gifts are unlikely to be pricey, as the Royals tend to buy each other jokey things. At 8pm, a candlelit dinner is served, with the ladies in gowns and jewels, and the men dressed in black tie. While it is a formal affair, it is also a wonderful opportunity for the families to catch up.
On the morning of Christmas Day, a full English breakfast is served before everyone attends the traditional church service. Afterwards, they return home for a turkey roast with all the trimmings, before gathering to watch the Queen's speech at 3pm. In 1840, the Christmas Day menu for Queen Victoria and her family included both roast beef and a royal swan or two. Today, the staff can put their feet up, as the family insist on serving themselves their own buffet supper.
Dos and don’ts
Reflecting on these traditions, there are some key etiquette learnings that trace back to Queen Victoria’s days — many of which Queen Elizabeth II still likes to follow today.
Here are some tips to properly prepare you for the holidays:
1. Send Christmas cards. Most people enjoy receiving cards and Queen Victoria was a huge fan of the Christmas card.
2. Be a gracious guest. If you have been invited to someone’s house for lunch or dinner, show your manners: be on time, bring a gift, don’t drink too much, and know when to leave.
3. Always greet guests at the door. Be the perfect host — greet your guests at the front door, introduce them to everyone, and have plenty of food and activities. Do as much preparation as possible the day before so you can enjoy the celebrations with your guests.
4. Be generous but don’t get into debt! You don’t have to spend a fortune on gifts — it is nice to give something small to everyone, particularly the children. If funds are limited, bake cakes or biscuits, and present them in a festive gift bag or tray.
The Royal Family doesn’t gift expensive items, rather they like to give each other gag gifts. Prince Charles was once given a white leather toilet seat but found it so comfortable, he now brings it with him on all overseas tours.
5. Show gratitude even if you don’t like the gift. Keep in mind that the person took time to think about you and select something he or she thought you would like.
6. Have fun at the office party but don’t forget where you are. It is never okay to drink too much, tell off-colour jokes, or get too close to other colleagues.
7. Spend extra time with children or grandchildren. Be prepared to remind them of all the manners you have taught them — it’s easy to forget during the chaos of Christmas.
8. Don’t forget your thank you cards. Make sure to send a written acknowledgement to all who have given you a gift, hosted an event you attended, or done something special for you.
Most importantly, enjoy every moment — Christmas only comes once a year, so be kind, be generous, be grateful.
The giveaway to win a DVD copy of Victoria & Adbul has ended.
What do you think about the etiquette of today’s society?