Unsheath your lightsabers, nerds, for it is the day you’ve been waiting for.
If you’ve been anywhere near Facebook or Twitter today, you’ve likely seen the phrase, “May the fourth be with you.” If you’re like me, and have friends across social media who are constantly making bad puns, this feels like any other day. But it’s not. Today, May 4, is Star Wars Day, perhaps the most widely celebrated fictional holiday in all the world’s pseudo-holidays, which include Seinfeld‘s “Festivus” and “Towel Day,” in honor of late sci-fi author Douglas Adams.
The aforementioned phrase is, of course, a play on the quintessential line from the Star Wars universe, “May the force be with you,” usually said from one Jedi to another. According to StarWars.com (a website owned by Lucasfilm), the pun originated when the British conservative party congratulated Margaret Thatcher on her ascendency to prime minister, on May 4, 1979. The party took out an ad in the London Evening News which read, “May the Fourth Be With You, Maggie. Congratulations.”
From there, as the original trilogy became a worldwide phenomenon, so too did the ”holiday” that it inspired. Originally, Lucasfilm had nothing to do with it, but the movie studio soon came to embrace it. Disney, which bought Lucasfilm in 2012, also helps in the celebration, hosting events at its parks and offering special deals on Star Wars merchandise that it now owns.
Elsewhere, fans gather to watch the movies, dress up in costumes, play games, and engage in all sorts of other Star Wars-themed shenanigans. And the advent of social media has made its presence felt even more, allowing the more casual fans, who might not want to dress up like a Wookie, to feel like part of the celebration.
This year, “May the fourth” is especially significant, as there’s a new Star Wars film coming out later this year. Director J.J. Abrams’s Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens, which debuts on Dec. 18, has so far given fans a new hope after the prequel trilogy underwhelmed. Vanity Fair released a preview today of its upcoming cover story, an elaborate look at Abrams’s film and the new characters that will soon fill the familiar sci-fi world.
If the recent trailer (video) is any indication, The Force Awakens is not only likely to restore fans’ faith in the franchise, but also make it an even bigger global sensation than it already is. It’s unlikely, then, that Star Wars Day is going anywhere soon. You’ll have to put up with the puns for a while longer.