Bittersweet, but this will be my first guilt-free Christmas.
My parents moved here from another country, so there was no visiting between Grand Parents, so not an issue. However...
bg/ My parents announced their impending divorce to my DB and myself on Christmas Eve when I was about 11, so Christmas doesn't have all that great memories for me in any case /bg
After that, for the first 2 years, until my Father met his girlfriend, there was an effort to spend Christmas as a family at me and my Mom's house and it was pleasant enough, but after girlfriend came into the picture, things became acrimonious to say the least and the shared Christmases disappeared. My and my brother would spend a few hours with Mom and then go over the Dads (DF had made sure to buy my Mom a home close that was walking distance to him as part of the divorce settlement), but Mom resented the sharing of time and made it very apparent to DB and I.
Fast forward to adulthood. Once I moved out of the house and lived on my own (or with a BF) every year I would travel back to see Mom and then her and my DSF when she re-married and spend Christmas Eve with them and stay over. My Dad had an agreement to meet up the weekend before, go out for a nice lunch and exchange our gifts (his GF and I didn't see eye-to-eye - you can read my posts on her behaviour at my Mom's memorial here - http://www.etiquettehell.com/smf/index.php?topic=138539.msg3320209#msg3320209
As the years went on, Mom retired. She drove into the city where I live on a weekly basis, if not more, but refused to meet up with me. Ever! It was my responsibility to come 2 hours each way via subway, train, bus to visit her. It was My Duty. Please note that my DSF's daughter (Awesome Step-Sister) would visit them both on a regular basis so they were definitely not neglected and I called on a regular basis.
Then I got married and wanted to spend Christmas Eve with DH (sleeping in our own home after visiting them) - reasonable enough, right? Nope! BIG tantrums every time we said - "lovely to have spent the day with you, but we need to head back into BigCity to visit with ILs and then head home to open our presents to each other". Cue crying etc.
When my DSF passed away, I did step up my one on one visits to her, even though she was still coming into BigCity on a regular basis.
As her Parkinson's was diagnosed and progressed, I stepped up the visits even more as she couldn't make the long drive in, but the demands became more and more unreasonable. I would meet her early in the afternoon on Christmas Eve, have a bite to eat, unwrap presents and then head back into BigCity again after at least 5 hours around 7:30 to meet up with DH's Parents and my SIL/BIL. Exhausting, especially having worked until 1:00 or whenever work let us out early. Each Christmas she would cry and cry and cry about being neglected and how I didn't love her if I didn't stay overnight (with her meds, she was in bed asleep by 8:00pm anyway, so I don't know how much more fun we could have).
Problem was, DASS would always invite her to visit them and even pick her up and have her stay over. Mom would always refuse and tell DASS that I had promised
to stay over this year and she needed to stay home. I made sure that I was very precise in my emails and communications with her that I could only stay until a certain time so I could be with my husband
on Christmas Eve.
Christmas was so stressful and depressing for me these last few years I would be physically ill for days afterwards.
I loved my DM and miss her very much, but am soooo looking forward to a stress-free, no-travel Christmas for once in 25 years! Just the in-laws who live about 10 minutes away.
On my ILs. They treated their sons with love and respect all their lives with no expectations of anything but love and respect back. Both men love and adore and make an effort to visit their parents on a weekly basis, even if just to grab a coffee. The ILs make no demands on their DILs and we both love them very much for it. DMIL had a nightmare with her own Mom and Christmas, so she tries to make it as stress free as possible for us two and we appreciate it.
I know this is a really long post, but one of the main reasons we love our ILs so much was the year they told us that they knew we were all struggling financially and, "as the adults", they were decreeing a no more gifts from "the kids". They had all they wanted and only wanted the gift of a few hours of our time - but absolutely no pressure. They gift their sons with a small amount of money and provide a great dinner and a wonderful relaxing evening. Both SIL and I were not able to attend on the 24th a few times each and each time they were gracious, sent a card home with some of DFIL's delicious homemade pizza.
Again, apologies for the length, but thank-you for starting this thread. It has made me realize that I am actually looking forward to Christmas for the first time since I was 11!