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Low-key celebration … the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Photo: Reuters

IT'S the perennial question that plagues couples every year: which family to spend Christmas Day with?

While some couples try to do both, or spend Christmas Eve with one family and Christmas Day with the other, one high-profile couple has chosen a more controversial option.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will be ditching the royals and their lavish Sandringham estate in Norfolk this year for a low-key Christmas with the Middleton family in Berkshire.

The duchess's parents, Michael and Carole Middleton, will be expecting their newly pregnant daughter and Prince William to join them for Christmas Day, along with their other daughter, Pippa, and their son, James.

''The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will spend Christmas Day privately with the Middleton family,'' a St James's Palace spokesman said.

But the couple are more likely to get party treatment than royal treatment - Mr Middleton is known to love dressing up for the occasion.

''He buys a new costume each year and typically gets a bit carried away. A couple of Christmases ago, he appeared in an inflatable sumo outfit,'' Pippa Middleton told the British media this year.

The duke and duchess spent the last festive period at Sandringham. It is believed the couple will visit the royal family's country retreat at some stage during the festive season.

Prince Harry will spend Christmas in Afghanistan, where he is an officer in the British Army. He will reportedly help serve junior soldiers Christmas dinner.