Everyone looks forward to Memorial Day with great anticipation. It’s the official kick-off of summer and so there’s a lot of pressure to have parties, crowds, and company. Especially after the pandemic, we’re all eager to jump right into the big Memorial Day Barbecue.

But pandemic or not, I find Memorial Day way too hectic when I am pressured to entertain. Not to mention the fact that Memorial Day was intended for us to be a little more thoughtful; to spend some time honoring lost lives.

If you feel the same, spend Monday in the Most perfect way: With family.

The first thing I love to do on Memorial Day when we’re all off from work is to have a friendly game of family wiffle ball. Wiffle ball is something that the whole family can do together and not worry about risk of injury. The materials are also inexpensive, as they are all plastic and can be found at a dollar store.

No Memorial Day is complete for my family without some fun family cooking. Ask your family what they want for dinner and split the roles so everyone can be involved. My family's favorite thing to do is prepare a beautiful dinner together while listening to some old school Frank Sinatra or Michael Bublé. Obviously, you’re going to be drawn to the barbecue, but don’t feel compelled to do that. All of you together in the kitchen is just as fun.

Finally, end the day watching an old-fashioned movie with popcorn. Maybe some thing with a patriotic theme. The cheesier the better.

It’s crazy to me how watching a movie means quality family time, especially since the advent of cell phones. In my house when a movie is on, the phones must go away and my family and I usually talk and comment throughout the movie. It’s nice to have a laugh, or even a cry, that everyone can share—with everyone in the moment—rather than a Tik-tok video.

I’m not saying we should turn Memorial Day into a sad, solemn holiday. But at the same time, we shouldn’t forget what the holiday is all about. Yes, it’s a kick-off for summer but it’s also a day to stop and think about the people who gave their lives for this country.

Memorial day doesn’t have to be a big extravaganza. It can still be laid back without being boring. It can be relaxed and warm without all the festivities. It can be a small gathering with just family. Or even extended family. But we have, over the years, turned Memorial Day into the 4th of July, missing the entire point of the day. Try to make it more meaningful this year. And you won’t even miss the Tuesday morning hangover.

The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Judi Franco. Any opinions expressed are Judi Franco’s own.

Judi's favorite backyards around New Jersey