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Queen Elizabeth changes her Christmas plans due to COVID-19 concerns

The 95-year-old monarch is changing the location of her annual Christmas celebration. 
/ Source: TODAY

Queen Elizabeth II will not hold her annual Christmas celebration in its usual spot this year.

The 95-year-old monarch decided to move the festivities to her castle in Windsor, England instead of traveling to her estate in the city of Sandringham, a senior Buckingham Palace source confirmed to NBC News. 

The source shared that the decision was made as COVID-19 cases across the pond (and in the United States) are rising. Reports of the omicron variant have also led to a surge in cases. 

Queen Elizabeth II sits at a desk in the 1844 Room at Buckingham Palace after recording her Christmas Day broadcast in 2017.John Stillwell/WPA Pool / Getty Images

While members of the royal family will still come together for the Windsor celebration during Christmastime, the source revealed that they are expected to follow safety guidelines. 

The change marks the second year in a row that the queen will break from tradition. Last year, the Queen and Prince Philip, who died in April at age 99, canceled their trip to their private home in Sandringham in Norfolk, England, due to coronavirus concerns. 

“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 at the time.

Queen Elizabeth II makes her first ever Christmas broadcast to the nation from Sandringham House, Norfolk in 1952.Fox Photos / Getty Images

Typically, the queen would gather with her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren at the Sandringham House for the holidays. On Christmas morning, the family would visit St. Mary Magdalene for services. Many travel on foot from the main house to the church for the ritual. 

After the religious ceremony concludes, the queen would then return to her home for her televised Christmas Day speech to the nation. Her first televised Christmas address took place in 1957. Prior to that, the messages were held via radio. 

Although the trek to Sandringham is a long-established practice, the royals have rearranged their Christmas plans a few times in the past. For multiple holiday celebrations in the 1960s, the family spent time near Windsor Castle because the queen and Prince Philip’s children were young. In 2016, the pair did not attend the Sandringham commemoration because they were suffering from “heavy colds.”

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip celebrate Christmas at Windsor Castle as they put the finishing touches on a tree in 1969.Bettmann Archive / Getty Images

So, while the change in scenery will not be a first for the family, this Christmas will be the first time that the queen won’t have her husband by her side.