Festive thoughts from the Chelsea Pensioners

24th December 2021

Pensioners at Cheese Ceremony 2021

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. 

The grounds and buildings are sparkling with lights and decked with greenery and carols resound through the quadrangles. The Chelsea Pensioners on the Long Wards are vying to have the best decorations and in the dementia ward, staff create Christmas wish lists for the residents and work with them to make everything look festive.  

We asked the Chelsea Pensioners what they enjoy about Christmas here – read on to find out what means the most to them.

Stirring of the Christmas pudding in 1940

Christmas is about tradition

Mike H. said:

For me, Christmas is a peaceful time, although I’ll take part in some of the traditions. The beauty of this place is that you can do what you want.

Harry said:

I enjoy the traditional bits – the cheese ceremony, stirring the Christmas pudding. It looks absolutely beautiful here at Christmas.

Pensioners and staff stirring the Christmas pudding mixture

Don said:

It’s nice to be able to participate in the ceremonies at Christmas.

Anne said:

I love the old traditional stuff here at Christmas. It’s eccentric!


Christmas Cake ceremony 2021

Allan said:

The run-up to Christmas is great with all the ceremonies.

Helen said:

My favourite things about Christmas here are the mince pies and the singing.

Pensioners in front of a giant cheese display at the Cheese Ceremony 2021

Christmas is about comradeship

Pensioner choir

Ken said:

The best thing about the Royal Hospital at Christmas is the comradeship and the friendliness of the staff.

Audrey said:

At Christmas it’s very friendly here. We all join in.

David said:

The friendship here is good at Christmas.

Pensioners singing Christmas carols in the Great Hall 2021

Charmaine said:

I like meeting up with everybody in the other wards, it’s a community time.

Hugh said:

Christmas is fun. There’s lots of camaraderie. We get together on the wards before dinner and have drinks then we go to the Great Hall and we party afterwards. Last year we were locked in, but it’s not a bad place to be locked in!

Mary G said:

I like the company at Christmas.

Ron said:

I love the gathering together at Christmas.

Christmas is about comfort and joy

Dewi said:

Christmas is an exciting time here. Everyone joins in and we have a whale of a time.

John said:

Christmas is a relaxing time here but this is the best place all year round – everyone’s brilliant.

Pensioners holding a Christmas wreath outside

Bill said:

This is my second Christmas here. I’ve been enjoying myself.

Brian said:

I like the peace and quiet at Christmas. You don’t have to fight your way around the country to visit people. I like the mulled wine on Christmas day.

Mike said:

My first Christmas here was absolutely brilliant. This year I’m going to get involved in everything I can. I’m not going to be a humbug!


Pensioners in the Great Hall

Peter said:

Everybody joins in at Christmas and it lasts for weeks – not just three days. There’s always something happening, something to do and see and the wards look grand.

Johnny said:

I’ve been here 11 years. Christmas here is unbelievable. On Christmas Day the Governor gives a speech and tells us who will be the reviewing officer for Founder’s Day. We’re all single men here and many have lost our wives so Christmas is nostalgic, but the community here is brilliant. It’s the kindest care home in the world.

Pottery '12 days of Christmas' display by Pensioners

Trevor said:

I’m going to family but it’s nice to know I have back-up – I hear Christmas dinner is pretty good. There’s so much organised for us to enjoy.

Mary J said:

We have a wonderful display of Christmas lights here. Last year it was mild and we sat outside the coffee shop and it was lovely. Christmas dinner was good – you couldn’t have it any better. Next year I’ll be 100.

Christmas tree with lights in Figure Court

Christmas is about staying safe and sound

Bill said:

I feel safe and secure here. I didn’t get much Christmas as a child as my dad was a vicar and had to do lots of services so I enjoy it now. It’s good because everyone gets together.

Joe said:

Christmas is really good here. They do everything they can to make it as happy as can be, especially during Covid.

From everyone at the Royal Hospital Chelsea, we wish you a merry Christmas and a happy new year!

Decorated fireplace at Christmas time


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View the archive

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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