01/04/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

My Christmas Bail Out: An Open Letter to My Friends

Here are my top ten reasons for opting out of Christmas this year. I've clarified my priorities so I won't feel stressed or be in the position of begging for an economic bail out after the holidays.

1) I'm reducing my carbon footprint and saving gas by not going to the malls or ordering by mail, and I'll save trees by sending fewer cards and buying and trashing less wrapping paper. I'll rapidly recycle all the seductive mail-order catalogs I receive without wasting time looking through them.

2) By avoiding Black Friday, I've already saved the lives of innocent strangers who otherwise might have been trampled by sale-crazed crowds.

3) With the country in a recession, my 401K heading south, and my cost-of-living escalating, I've been forced to skimp on myself so why should I practice excess with others?

4) With the term "friend" redefined by social media like Facebook and Linked In, I don't know where to draw the line between virtual friends I talk to every day and physical friends I see once a year.

5) Although I've always tried to come up with creative gift ideas, I know that many times I've chosen gifts you already have, don't need, or don't want. Now the pressure will be off me.

6) With the time I save, I hope to focus on the true spirit of Christmas -- love, peace and sharing -- as opposed to the crass consumerism that has come to define the season.

7) Instead of material things, I will give my friends the gift of time, the most generous gift of all. In lieu of shopping, I want to see more of them.

8) With loss and sadness touching so many parts of the globe this year, I want to focus my giving where it is truly needed.

9) I'm also setting you free: You probably don't want to exchange gifts with me any more than I do with you.

10) I'm a secular Jew. I really don't know how I got sucked into this tradition anyway.

Want to join me? Visit Redefine Christmas, a clearinghouse that enables you to replace meaningless gifts with donations to your friends' favorite charities.

Irene S. Levine, PhD is a freelance journalist and author. She holds an appointment as a professor of psychiatry at the New York University School of Medicine and is working on a book about female friendships that will be published by Overlook Press in 2009 and blogs about the same topic on The Friendship Blog. She just co-authored Schizophrenia for Dummies (Wiley, 2008).

If you have a question or concern about your female friendships, please email me at: and I will try to answer as many as possible on HuffPo.