Christmas is one of the few times during the year that I have contact with my brother and his family, even though he lives less than an hour away. We get on fine but we're not particularly close - different lifestyles, ideals, interests. The times I spend with him are pleasant enough but not especially close or bonding; akin to having dinner with your CPA. I suspect we'd have nothing to do with one another if we didn't share the same genetic background. I do have a good relationship with my parents and grandmother, and so does my wife, so Christmas at the Mc-- house is a relatively peaceful one. My family is loud and obnoxious when it comes to politics/social issues, and we often argue if only for the sake of polemics, but it's good-natured.
My wife's family is another matter. Her sister Sh-- usually cooks a meal at her house. My mother-in-law and usually the third sister M-- is there, but the event is dominated by Sh--'s husband's family. This consists of J-- (the husband), his parents, his grandmother, my nephew, and, less seldom, one of J--'s gun freak buddies. Through it all two themes seem to resonate: one, the obsessive concern for the health of J--'s mother (honestly, corpses have fewer health problems...at least theirs can't get any worse), and the thinly-veiled hostility between J-- and my mother-in-law (obviously, his mother-in-law as well). I don't particularly enjoy her company either, but the temperature doesn't drop when we're in the same room like it does with her and J--. So the day consists of eating and using both the television and the nephew as convenient means of ignoring the elephant in the corner. I mean, what's the point? If you genuinely dislike a person, what's to be gained by pretending you do?
This is part of the reason why Halloween is more appealing than Christmas or Thanksgiving to me - no familial obligations.