Yes, it’s that day once again. Where strangers from all walks of life come to celebrate with good food, good drinks and good stories. No, it’s not Cinco de Mayo, it’s May 4th, Star Wars Day ! May the 4th be with you.
In a galaxy not so far away…
Not that long ago, a holiday was born, all from a famous Star Wars pun. A play on Obi-Wan Kenobi’s memorable line in a New Hope, which has become one the most famous quotes of all-time: “May the Force be with you”. Even those not so die hard fans, will smile when they hear this play on that signature line. This famous pun has launched a cultural phenomenon, in which everyone gets together to celebrate with food, fun, movies and even vacation to Star Wars destinations.
But how does one line in a movie released in 1977 turn into a bona fide Star Wars holiday ? Fans creating memes, sharing stories, creating meals and even flying to Disney to stand in Galaxy’s Edge, basically, unabashedly studying all things Jedi. We decided to take a look and see where it all started.
The Jedi’s Didn’t See This Coming…
Everyone’s first thought about the origin of the phrase would be the father of Star Wars, Mr. George Lucas himself. NOPE.. Then a genius marketing team came up with it, wrong again. Wait, it was the day that the movie came out in 1977, nada. That was actually May 25th, that year. So who was the genius that came up with it ? Would you believe me if I said it was the conservative English Party, the Tories ? After Margaret Thatcher was elected the first female prime minister of the United Kingdom on May 4th, 1979 they took out a newspaper ad. According to Newsweek, “May the Fourth be with you Maggie, Congratulations” and the rest is history.
The pun became popular with Star Wars fans, but didn’t cross over into mainstream pop culture for another 20 years. Dan Madsen, the founder of the Official Lucasfilm/Star Wars Fan Club and founder and former publisher of Star Wars Insider magazine. “It wasn’t until the early 2000s that the Star Wars holiday became much more in the public eye due to the fact that fans were using it constantly on social media,” he explains. To give it that extra boost, in 2011, the Toronto Underground Cinema hosted the first big organized event. Complete with screenings of the movies and a celebrity-judged costume contest.
Star Wars Day Goes Global
In 2012, things got really serious when Disney bought Lucasfilm and decided to use it for a boost to the parks. May 4th got the Disney treatment, and it became a “half earnest celebration, half shameless marketing bonanza.”, according to TheVerge.com. Now that Star Wars was part of the Disney brand, that meant it gets the full treatment, including official events. May the 4th had it’s own dance parties, fireworks shows, merchandising deals, movie screenings and so much more. Many guests flocked to Walt Disney World or Disneyland, dressed up and ready to celebrate.
Still, many cynics scoff at the commercialization of this brand. Die-hards sometimes get irritated with newbies who flood the parks and social media with memes, but can’t tell you the difference between a Porg and Gungan. This was originally for fans, by fans, but some feel has been turned into a corporate cash grab. “It was started as a way for the Star Wars community to bask in their shared love of all things Jedi,” says Mike Avila, author and host of SYFY WIRE’s Behind the Panel podcast. “Once Disney bought Lucasfilm and the Star Wars franchise, it made perfect sense for them to embrace it. The marketing plan was already built for them.”
Star Wars Day was an unofficial holiday for years, and then, once again, Disney’s Force came into play. In 2019 California legislature voted to turn May 4th in Star Wars Day. This resolution was one of the reasons behind Galaxy’s Edge in Disneyland (and later Walt Disney World), which brings an estimated $14 million in tax revenue to the city of Anaheim every year. So how do you celebrate ?
May the 4th be a Celebration …
You can post a simple “May the 4th be with you” meme on social media or wear a “I’m with the Wookie” tee shirt, but how do big Star Wars fans do it ? They don’t mess around. There will be the occasional meme, but they are into parties, trivia nights, themed dinners, movie marathons and even charity events centered around this one day. Disney originally turned this one day into a couple of weekends of celebrations at Walt Disney World with Star Wars Weekends, those have since stopped with the opening of Galaxy’s Edge. One the biggest contributors to those weekends (and so many more throughout the year) is the 501st Legion. This a group (that term, group really doesn’t do them justice) of die hard fans that cosplay the roles of different characters, including Storm Troopers, Imperial Guards and so much more. Their costumes are perfect (I mean Disney lets them walk down the middle of Hollywood studios, so you know they were on point) and their dedication to it is above reproach.
May the 4th Be With You
Those who own an Amazon Alexa have an additional way to celebrate Star Wars Day 2022: Ask Alexa to use the Force for some interactive, intergalactic activities, or say, “Alexa, begin my Jedi lesson” for various lessons in the art of becoming a Jedi.
How do you plan on celebrating this year ? An impromptu light saber match ? A movie marathon? A themed dinner? There are so many ideas, that the sky, or I should the galaxy is the limit.