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Queen Elizabeth cancels annual family pre-Christmas lunch amid COVID-19 surge

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(LONDON) — Queen Elizabeth has canceled her annual pre-Christmas celebration for family for the second year in a row due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The 95-year-old monarch traditionally holds a lunch at Buckingham Palace before Christmas for extended members of the royal family, but has decided to cancel it again this year, a royal source told ABC News.

“The decision is a precautionary one as it is felt to put too many people’s Christmas arrangements at risk if it went ahead,” the royal source said. “While there is regret that it is cancelled, there is a belief it is the right thing to do for all concerned.”

Buckingham Palace has not yet confirmed where or with whom Queen Elizabeth will celebrate Christmas, her first without her husband of 73 years, Prince Philip, who died in April at the age of 99.

Last year, also amid the coronavirus pandemic, the royal family broke a decades-long tradition of spending Christmas at Sandringham, Queen Elizabeth’s estate in Norfolk.

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The queen and Philip instead spent the Christmas holiday at Windsor Castle, their home outside London, where they had spent much of their time since March 2020, when the U.K. began its first stay-at-home orders.

In past years, Philip and Elizabeth oversaw the family’s multi-day Christmas celebration at Sandringham with their four children — Princes Charles, Andrew and Edward and Princess Anne — and their grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

The family traditionally holds their gift exchange on Christmas Eve, following the German tradition, where they often swap funny or homemade gifts.

On Christmas Day, they walk to St. Mary Magdalene Church for the Christmas service.

After the service, the royals enjoy a Christmas lunch at Sandringham and then gather to watch Queen Elizabeth II deliver her annual Christmas message.

In the evening, the royal family will get together again for a Christmas buffet dinner with 15 to 20 different delicacies prepared by the queen’s chef.

On the day after Christmas, known as Boxing Day in the U.K., the royals traditionally partake in a pheasant shoot on the grounds of Sandringham.

Some members of the royal family gathered Dec. 8 at Westminster Abbey for a Christmas carols service hosted by Duchess Kate.

Kate and Prince William were joined by William’s cousins Zara Tindall and Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie.

William’s aunt, Sophie Wessex, also attended, as did members of Kate’s family, the Middletons.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

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