Christmas is almost here and although life is still far from normal the Chelsea Pensioners are enjoying being part of our community at this special time. We are celebrating in many of the traditional ways at the Royal Hospital – while ensuring guidelines are followed and the Chelsea Pensioners stay as safe as possible. 

Chelsea Pensioners and staff gathered together in the Great Hall on the last day of November to usher in the start of Advent with the first of the Royal Hospital’s annual Christmas traditions. 

We are delighted to be able to share an exclusive opportunity to join the Chapel Choir of the Royal Hospital Chelsea for the 2020 Christmas Carol service, which this year has been recorded to allow our friends and supporters to enjoy the concert from the safety and comfort of their home.

Senior staff nurse Gail St Juste Alcide says that the dementia ward’s Christmas celebrations will be as joyful as ever, despite the pandemic. 

The Christmas Cake Ceremony has been a tradition for over 70 years, beginning in 1949, and is a symbol of the enduring friendship between the UK and Australia.

The Royal Hospital Chelsea has been celebrating the Ceremony of the Christmas Cheeses ever since the first Chelsea Pensioners arrived back in 1692. It's a tradition that spans over three centuries! But this year was very different.

This Christmas, we’re delighted to be sharing the Royal Hospital’s first-ever handmade advent calendar. From the photograph of the our colonnade – which forms the backdrop of the calendar – to the treasures hidden behind each door, every part of the calendar has been made by a Chelsea Pensioner. 

Christmas is a time for celebration. However, it can also highlight feelings of sadness and loss. Our wonderful care team do their utmost to support Pensioners, whatever their needs, during the festive season.

As we look ahead to the upcoming festive holidays, we caught up with some of the Chelsea Pensioners who have been sharing their memories of Christmas past.

The Royal Hospital’s weekly pottery club, run by Emily Hall, is very popular with the Pensioners – particularly at this time of year, as they plan their festive projects. 

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Brompton Cemetery Seed Sowing
Sowing wildflowers in memory of past Chelsea Pensioners

On 6 May, Chelsea Pensioners and members of the Royal Hospital’s grounds team joined representatives from the Royal Parks, the Royal Parks Guild and the Friends of Brompton Cemetery to sow a patch of wildflower seeds in Brompton Cemetery as part of the Battlefields and Butterflies initiative.

Chelsea Pensioner Centenarians
100 years old and still going strong

Recent research backs up the anecdote that Chelsea Pensioners not only live considerably longer than their peers outside (by over five years, on average), but that their lifetimes once they come to the Royal Hospital are extending, year on year. This strongly suggests that the care and community here contribute to greater longevity – as well as improving quality of life. 

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