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Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip to break their Christmas tradition in 2020

In a rare change of Christmas plans, the royals will skip the annual trek to Sandringham House.
/ Source: TODAY

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip recently celebrated 73 years of marriage, and for most of those years, they’ve spent their holiday season the very same way — celebrating Christmas with their extended family at the monarch’s private home in Sandringham in Norfolk, England.

But not this year.

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The queen with members of her family during their Christmas holiday In Sandringham in 1988.Tim Graham / Getty Images

With the coronavirus pandemic still surging, the senior royals will follow the plan many families all over the world have for this Yuletide — break with tradition and skip the big gathering.

“Having considered all the appropriate advice, the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh have decided that this year they will spend Christmas quietly in Windsor,” a Buckingham Palace spokesperson told NBC News.

Prince Charles, Prince William, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, and Prince Harry attend Christmas Day church service at Church of St. Mary Magdalene on the Sandringham estate on Dec. 25, 2018.Stephen Pond / Getty Images

Holidays at Sandringham House are a time-honored tradition for the couple, as well as their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Christmas morning typically begins with a visit to St. Mary Magdalene, where the family, many of whom travel on foot from the main house to the country church, joins the queen for services.

And after they return, the queen broadcasts her televised Christmas Day speech to the nation from Sandringham House, as she’s done many times since her first televised Christmas message in 1957 (and as she did via radio before that).

The queen is seen in the Long Library at Sandringham shortly after making the traditional Christmas Day broadcast to the nation in 1957.

But while that’s the way things are typically done with the royals this time of year, 2020 won’t mark the first time Elizabeth and Philip have bowed out of the trek to Sandringham for the holidays.

Back in 1953, they gave the tradition a pass as they were busy on a royal tour of New Zealand, where the queen still recorded her Christmas broadcast for radio.

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip return from a youth rally in Auckland, New Zealand, during the coronation world tour on Dec. 24, 1953.

And several Christmases in the 1960s saw the family stick close to Windsor Castle, as Elizabeth and Philip’s children were still young.

But since 1988, the couple have made sure to make the Christmas trip each year, with only one exception. In 2016, both the queen and Philip skipped Sandringham as they were said to be suffering from “heavy colds.”