She used her annual address to respond to the outpouring of affection and enthusiasm shown by the nation to her during the summer.
As her momentous year draws to a close, she said she was struck by the “strength of fellowship and friendship” shown by well-wishers, most memorably during the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant when more than a million people lined the banks of the river.
Despite the cold conditions and persistent downpours, the crowds who witnessed the once-in-a-lifetime flotilla were “undaunted by the rain”, she said in her address.
The Olympic and Paralympic Games were another highlight of 2012 for the Queen.
She paid tribute to the athletes, Olympic torch bearers and volunteer Games Makers for either inspiring the nation with their efforts or devoting themselves to others.
The message, produced by Sky News, was broadcast in 3D for the first time and elements of the footage appeared to leap out from the screen. It was also shown in HD and standard definition.
In her annual address to the nation, the Queen said: “This past year has been one of great celebration for many. The enthusiasm which greeted the Diamond Jubilee was, of course, especially memorable for me and my family.
“It was humbling that so many chose to mark the anniversary of a duty which passed to me 60 years ago. People of all ages took the trouble to take part in various ways and in many nations.
“But perhaps most striking of all was to witness the strength of fellowship and friendship among those who had gathered together on these occasions.”
The broadcast featured panoramic shots of hundreds of boats, tugs, ships, cruisers and canoes sailing down river past the Houses of Parliament during the pageant staged as part of the national celebrations in June.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry were shown waving to the crowds, while well-wishers stood on the riverbanks drenched by the downpours but still clearly enjoying themselves.
In a lighthearted moment the Duke of Edinburgh was featured jigging along to a nautical tune, as other royals, including the Prince of Wales and the Queen, also enjoyed the music.
The Queen summed up the day: “On the barges and the bridges and the banks of the river there were people who had taken their places to cheer through the mist, undaunted by the rain.
“That day there was a tremendous sense of common determination to celebrate, triumphing over the elements.”
The same spirit of celebration was found when the Olympic flame reached the UK, said the Queen, who recorded her address in Buckingham Palace’s White Drawing Room.
She added: “The flame itself drew hundreds and thousands of people on its journey around the British Isles, and was carried by every kind of deserving individual, many nominated for their own extraordinary service.”
A number of Olympic torch bearers were shown including paratrooper Ben Parkinson, considered the most seriously wounded soldier to survive the war in Afghanistan, who carried the flame through his home town of Doncaster, South Yorkshire, in June.
Lance Bombardier Parkinson lost both legs and suffered brain and back injuries in a bomb attack in 2006, and was cheered by thousands as he slowly made his way along the route.
Military Cross holder Corporal Ricky Furgusson was another injured serviceman who took part in the Olympic Torch Relay.
Despite losing both legs, five fingers and his left eye in an explosion in Afghanistan in 2010, the soldier from 4th Battalion, The Rifles was seen carrying the torch through Broseley in Shropshire in May.
When the nation’s sportsmen and women began competing, their efforts impressed spectators, remarked the Queen.
“As London hosted a splendid summer of sport, all those who saw the achievement and courage at the Olympic and Paralympic Games were further inspired by the skill, dedication, training and teamwork of our athletes,” she said.
Footage featured Olympic and Paralympic heroes, from cyclist Bradley Wiggins on his way to clinching the time trial gold medal, to an ecstatic Mo Farah after winning the 10,000m title - soon to be followed by a 5,000m gold.
Paralympian David Weir was seen after his triumph in the men’s T54 800m and the world’s fastest man Usain Bolt powering over the finish line to retain his 100m Olympic title.
The thousands of volunteers who were the public face of the Games were singled out by the Queen.
She said: “Those public-spirited people came forward in the great tradition of all those who devote themselves to keeping others safe, supported and comforted.”
The Queen, with Philip, was shown reviewing troops in May during the Armed Forces Diamond Jubilee Parade and Muster.
The Queen, who wore a fine silk tulle gown by Angela Kelly for the broadcast, said: “For many, Christmas is also a time for coming together. But for others, service will come first. Those serving in our Armed Forces, in our emergency services and in our hospitals, whose sense of duty takes them away from family and friends, will be missing those they love.”
The broadcast was recorded on December 7, a few days after it was officially announced that Kate was pregnant, but there was no mention of the impending royal birth in the message.
The Christmas address is one of the rare occasions when the Queen does not turn to the Government for advice but is able to voice her own views.
It also has a strong religious framework and this year the Queen spoke about the story at the heart of Christmas - the birth of Jesus.
“A young mother and a dutiful father with their baby were joined by poor shepherds and visitors from afar. They came with their gifts to worship the Christ child,” she said.
“From that day on, he has inspired people to commit themselves to the best interests of others.”
At the start of the broadcast, the British Paraorchestra, which accompanied Coldplay during the Paralympics closing ceremony, was featured performing the National Anthem in Buckingham Palace’s Ballroom.
For the final segment of the message, the Military Wives Choir, with choirmaster Gareth Malone, sang the carol In The Bleak Midwinter in the same setting.