I'm posting this in hopes that it will a)help some folks who are struggling with this and b) inspire others to share their success stories to give further methods of handling this situation which is fraught with peril!
All of my life my maternal Grandmother hosted the official Christmas gathering for that side of the family. The menu has been the same since I was born right down to the type of candy in the dish on the coffee table and fruit basket. Tradition with a capital T! As my Grandmother aged (lived alone, fiercely independent!) my Mom made a few stabs at trying to host with no success.
Fast forward to about 10 years ago....Gram was in her 80's and prepping and cooking for this had become 3 weeks of work for her. A week to decorate and a week to cook and a week to take down the decorations. With her declining health she finally agreed to Mom coming to help her decorate (roughly 2 million ornaments and other decor that went in the same spots every year) then coming back to help her put it all away. Even with that help it was a struggle especially when we found out she was falling off dining room chairs that she stood on to get out the china. She insisted that was fine as no china was dropped or harmed.
Clearly something had to change. We made a stab at offering to bring in the food.....we were allowed to bring rolls.
Then I got married and my generally not so fond of men in general Grandmother took a shine to my DH. And my Mom hatched a plan unbeknownst to me.
You see as a newly wed with my own house it would mean ever so much to me to be able to host Christmas "just this once". And it would make it so much easier for my Stepson and DIL to bring their brand new baby to my house less than 10 minutes away instead of driving an hour to Gram's. My Mom is a master of tactics! So after much stroking and work on my Mom's part Gram agreed to "just this once" at my house. Mom jumped on the opportunity and let me know I was on....which was a bit of a surprise as I didn't know about the scheme but was totally fine with. I'm lucky enough to have a house that is both big enough and nicely set up to host 15 people for a holiday meal. And Mom was ready to do whatever was needed to help.
That first year we kept the exact same menu we have always served. Gram insisted she bring something so we asked her to bring her traditional Mashed Potato Cake (spice cake type dessert) citing no one being able to make it like she did. And we can't have Christmas without it! (never mind that only 3 of us actually like/eat it)
We were careful not to gush over how much nicer it was at my house....only mentioned that I have "a bit more room for us all" since Gram lived in a trailer. We all left it that Christmas would likely go back to Gram's hosting next year. Mom began her subtle campaign about how much it had meant to me that Gram had passed the Christmas Torch to me, more room, etc and combined with further declining health Gram agreed to making me the "New Official Maker of Christmas" in our family. I continued to have the same menu as long as Gram was with us, only adding things never replacing any of the standards. I think that was a large part of the successful transition. We did all the same things only moved the location. I think it was also a major help that hosting went to a granddaughter not to a daughter. I don't know exactly why that seems to have made a difference but it did. And it definitely made a HUGE difference that we made a big stinking fuss about it not being Christmas without Gram's signature dessert and insisted that she be the one to bring it even though basically no one ate it at dinner. (Important to note that no one ate it at her house either....it has to "age" a bit or its dry as a bone)
We lost Gram several years ago but we still have Christmas here. The menu changes quite a bit now but we still have Gram's Mashed Potato Cake. No one eats it but it wouldn't be Christmas without it!