How Queen Elizabeth II and the Royal Family Spend the Easter Holiday

At Easter members of the royal family gather at Windsor Castle to spend time together at the invitation of Queen Elizabeth II.

Like many families across the world, the royals have their own special Easter traditions, which include church services and family get-togethers.

For the past two years, the royals' official public Easter celebrations have been canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. Since then the Queen, who will be 96 on April 21, has suffered a series of health scares and increased mobility issues. 2022 will also mark the second year that the monarch's husband Prince Philip will not be around to take part in the celebrations.

While the structure of the royal family's Easter schedule may change with these factors in mind, they are still expected to gather at Windsor Castle across the holiday.

Here Newsweek looks at some of the royals' favorite Easter traditions:

Easter Court at Windsor Castle

Before the pandemic the Queen's calendar saw her moving around the country at fixed points of the year taking in stays at Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle, Sandringham House in Norfolk, England and Balmoral Castle in Scotland.

Each March/April the Queen would spend one month living at Windsor Castle—the longest stay at the castle of the year. This would involve moving her staff and offices with her for the period of time known as the "Easter court."

During this time the Queen would perform her official ceremonial duties such as official paperwork, meetings with the prime minister and investitures from the castle, instead of traveling back and forth to Buckingham Palace.

Since the outbreak of the pandemic in March 2020 the Queen has lived permanently at Windsor Castle and according to reports will retain it as her main base moving forward. This means that the Easter court no longer exists in its pre-pandemic form.

Queen Elizabeth II Easter  2017
Queen Elizabeth II would spend a month every Easter at Windsor Castle for what was known as the "Easter court" before the pandemic saw her move permanently to the castle. Photographed on Easter Sunday, April 2017. Peter Nicholls/WPA Pool/Getty Images

Queen's Lenten Sacrifice

The Queen is known to have a passion for chocolate.

Speaking in the 2021 documentary My Years With The Queen, the monarch's friend and relation Lady Pamela Hicks told her daughter India that she brings her own box of chocolates with her when staying with friends. "She does have her own box of chocolates which she has learned to keep in her room," Hicks said of the Queen, "otherwise she says 'the family are so greedy they all eat them' before she can.'"

In 2022 the Queen was photographed at Windsor Castle meeting Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau standing in front of a table laden with boxes of her favorite sweet treats.

Queen Elizabeth Trudeau Chocolate
The Queen was photographed in front of a table holding five boxes of the monarch's favorite chocolates at a meeting with Justin Trudeau, March 7, 2022. Steve Parsons/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Perhaps it is given her fondness for chocolate then that the monarch gives it up each year in observation of the Christian Lenten sacrifice. Former royal chef Darren McGrady told OK in 2020: "Her Majesty loves chocolate, but particularly dark chocolate. She gives it up for Lent and then looks forward to tucking into her favorite Bendicks Bittermints. Boxes of them are provided for everyone to nibble on."

A box of Bendicks chocolates can be seen in the photographs of the Queen and Trudeau taken in the monarch's private rooms at Windsor in March.

Maundy Service

Each Easter a special church service takes place in which the monarch distributes purses of symbolic importance to elderly men and women who have performed a service to their church or community.

The service takes place on Maundy Thursday, which is a Christian holy day commemorating the last supper of Jesus Christ and his symbolic washing of the feet of his disciples.

Traditionally on this day British monarchs have distributed money to the poor and in modern times this has evolved into a symbolic service of public recognition from the king or queen to their people.

Queen Elizabeth II Maundy Thursday 2018
The monarch traditionally distributes purses of symbolic coins to elderly members of the community who have distinguished themselves during the past year on Maundy Thursday. Photographed at Windsor, March 29, 2018. Steve Parsons/WPA Pool/Getty Images

The Queen, up until the pandemic, would attend the Maundy Thursday service at a different cathedral each year around Britain, distributing coins according to the number of years she has lived.

In 2020 the Queen turned 95, meaning that 95 men and 95 women received purses of symbolic gifts to the tune of 95 pence.

The Maundy money coins are struck by the Royal Mint in sterling silver.

This month it was announced by Buckingham Palace that the Queen had asked Prince Charles to represent her at the Maundy Thursday service at St George's Chapel for 2022. This follows the monarch's reduced schedule of events and increased difficulty with her mobility. She has missed the service only four other times in her 70-year reign.

Queen's First Day Off of the Year

The Queen's red boxes full of official state paperwork famously follow her wherever she goes but there are two days each year that she does not sit down to open them. These dates are Christmas Day and Easter Sunday.

Easter Sunday, therefore, marks the Queen's first day off of the year and she fills it with family and attending a church service at Windsor Castle.

Queen Elizabeth II Official Papers
Queen Elizabeth II famously takes only two days off from official papers on Christmas Day and Easter Sunday. Photographed aboard the royal train, May 2002. Anwar Hussein/Getty Images

Easter Sunday Service

Each year before the pandemic, the Queen would attend the Easter Sunday church service at St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle. This service was also attended by various members of the royal family, who were then invited to lunch with the Queen back at the castle.

In 2019 Prince William and Kate Middleton attended the service alongside Prince Harry.

This service has become a favorite with royal watchers, who closely track what the royals wear and who they interact with on their way to and from the chapel.

Royal Easter Sunday 2019
Members of the royal family gather at Windsor Castle for an Easter Sunday church service at St George's Chapel. Photographed April 21, 2019. Eamonn M. McCormack/Getty Images

Easter Eggs

Though there is no official royal family Easter egg hunt, each year the royal palaces put on events for the public that involve nature trails and digital hunts. In 2022 Kensington Palace, the home of William and Kate and their three children George 8, Charlotte 6, and Louis 3, is hosting a chocolate bunny hunt across its grounds.

The Cambridge children are known to have inherited their great-grandmother's penchant for chocolate. In a special Easter video call with school children posted to social media last year, William was asked if much chocolate would be eaten at their house. The prince responded "there will be a lot of chocolate eaten here, don't worry," to which Kate replied, "But you keep eating it!"

For more royal news and commentary check out Newsweek's The Royal Report podcast: