On May 4th, we celebrate International Star Wars Day. To lose a lot of words about the Star Wars phenomenon is like – based on the ancient Greeks and the old Hegel – carrying Ewoks to Endor. 😉 So it is not surprising that the intergalactic fan base of the Star Wars saga celebrates this date as a special day under the motto: May the 4th be with you. What this is all about and why this date definitely deserves a permanent place in the calendar of curious holidays from all over the world, this article explains. Draw out your lightsabers, mount your X-Wing, Tie-Fighter, etc.
Why does Star Wars Day fall on May 4th?
In fact, there is a very specific rationale for choosing May 4th as Star Wars Day. There is a whole range of substantive and historical references for this.
The phrase ” May the force be with you” (dt. ” May the force be with you” ) is one of the most famous phrases from the Star Wars universe and has made its way now also found in everyday language. Because of the phonetic similarity between May the force and May the 4th, American Star Wars fans chose this date as the official Star Wars Day. Lucas Film himself also used this play on words as part of the promotion and poster campaigns for the pre-sale start of the sixth film in Star Wars Episode III – Revenge of the Sith on May 4, 2005 (see also the list of related links below).
Star Wars and the Iron Lady Margaret Thatcher – May the fourth be with you
In fact, they are in historical company, because as early as May 4, 1979, the phrase was used by the British Conservatives in an advertisement in the London Evening News in which the party congratulated British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher on her election victory: May the Fourth be with you, Maggie. Congratulations. At this point, I leave any similarities or parallels between the Iron Lady and the dark side of power to the eye of the beholder (see also the list of further links below).
May the 4th be with you as part of a UK Parliament defense debate on May 4th 1994
At this point, let’s stay in Great Britain again. Because the statement “May the fourth be with you” reappeared in a defense debate in the British Parliament and the House of Commons on May 4, 1994. Here MP Harry Cohen made the following joke in the context of this House of Commons debate:
“May the fourth is an appropriate date for a defense debate. My researcher, who is a bit of a wit, said that it should be called national star wars day. He was talking about the film “Star Wars” rather than President Reagan’s defense fantasy, and he added, “May the fourth be with you.” That is a very bad joke; he deserves the sack for making it, but he is a good researcher. “
( Source : House of Commons Hansard Debates for 4 May 1994)
Jeanne Cavelos and her 1999 book The Science of Star Wars
The American astrophysicist and author Jeanne Cavelos used the variant “May the fourth be with you” on page 94 of her 1999 book The Science of Star Wars (St. Martin’s Griffin). There, however, in the context of the problems of natural language recognition by machines. They discussed the example of “May the force be with you” how robots would have to work to understand the linguistic declaration of a person (see also the contribution to the US-based Science Fiction tag (Engl. National Science Fiction Day) on January 2nd). A variant or derivation is the infamous “May the fouth be with you”.
“I can’t be sure, but I think I may have been the one to start the whole # Maythe4thbewithyou thing. It’s on p. 94 of my book, THE SCIENCE OF STAR WARS, where I talk about how robots need to work to understand what a person is saying. This was one of the ways a robot might hear “May the Force be with you.” The book was originally published in 1999. I don’t remember anyone celebrating May 4 before then (…). “
( Source: Facebook post by Jeanne Cavelos on May 7, 2017)
At this point, it is also interesting to note that Cavelo was one of the first to use this variant. This is supported by the fact that her book came onto the market on April 15, 1999 and is therefore prior to the premiere of Star Wars Episode III. To what extent you were aware of the previously outlined statements from Great Britain, however, I was unable to find out in the course of the research for the present article.
Star Wars Day: A Translation Error and Its Consequences in 2005
The phonetic similarity mentioned at the beginning also caused a certain amount of media excitement in Germany. When George Lucas was in Berlin for the German premiere of Star Wars Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (May 2005), the news broadcaster N24 asked him in a live interview to repeat the most important sentence of his film saga.
However, the simultaneous interpreter seemed to have understood May the fourth be with you and translated this with: We will be with you on the fourth of May. While not too many people would have seen the original broadcast, this translation error received more attention from Stefan Raab’s show TV Total, which broadcast it on May 18, 2005 (see also the list of related links below).
Who started Star Wars Day?
Although the Star Wars films have a globally networked fan base with numerous events and conventions, the exact origins of Star Wars Day can only be roughly outlined from today’s perspective (see also the article on Geek-to-be-day (engl. Embrace Your Geekness day) on July 13, and the Star Trek day (Star Trek day dt.) on 8 September). The genesis outlined below appears to be the most likely given the existing sources.
May 4th as Luke Skywalker Day
It can be assumed that Star Wars Day emerged from Luke Skywalker Day. This emerged from a Facebook group founded in 20087 by the Canadian Dylan Bates, which placed May 4th under the motto “May the fourth be with you” in order to pay tribute to the protagonist of the original trilogy. Although the group had very few members and limited reach, the motto began to spread in many North American universities (see also the list of related links below)
The first official Star Wars Day celebration on May 4, 2011
In fact, the first official edition of Star Wars Day should last until May 4, 2011. Here, the two Canadians Sean Ward and Alice Quinn held the first organized celebration of the occasion at the Toronto Underground Cinema. Although the event was only repeated in 2012, from today’s perspective this event is also considered to be the start of Star Wars Day on May 4th (see also the list of related links below).
Lucas Film and Disney take over Star Wars Day
Since 2013, Lucasfilm and Disney have also reacted to the phenomenon and are using May 4th as an integral part of the marketing strategy for one of the largest film franchises ever. If you don’t believe it, take a look at the official Star Wars website.
After Star Wars creator George Lucas sold the rights to Star Wars and Lucasfilm to Disney at the end of 2012, the Maus Group is in the lead here. Can you believe the feedback from the global Star Wars community, not always in the interests of the fans (see also the list of related links below).
More Star Wars holidays in the calendar of the year
Of course, a phenomenon like Star Wars doesn’t just spawn a holiday. In addition to the infamous Wookiee Life Day on 17 November and Say-as-Yoda-day (English Talk Like Yoda Day – often. National or International Talk Yoda Day like) on May 21, there is a closer look actually also some variants of Star Wars Day on May 4th. These are either directly related to this date or are a historical reference to various events from the now over 40-year history of this franchise.
Revenge of the Fifth / Revenge of the Sixth – May 5th and May 6th as alternatives
In fact, some Star Wars fans are continuing the game with the phonetic similarity of “May the force be with you” and May Days. Quite a few people celebrate their own version of Star Wars Day on May 5th as “Revenge of the Fifth”. The Revenge of Fifth Day goes back to an idea by Victor Medina and Eric Shirey from 2012. Medina reports on the day of action website that this was caused by a joke by his nephew on May 4th.
This had alluded to the title of “Star Wars Episode III – Revenge of the Sith” (Eng. “Revenge of the Sith”), spoken of the Revenge of Fifth and the two took this as the basis of revengeofthe5th.net (see also the list of further links below). The core of this calendar alternative to May 4th is above all the celebration of the dark side of power, i.e. Sith Lords and other villains from the films. After all, this faction supposedly has cookies and it is not for nothing that the Sith rule that there must always be two also applies to Star Wars holidays. A student and a master. In this respect, the content also fits. 😉
There seems to be some disagreement about the exact date. Because there are also voices who prefer May 6th as a linguistically better variant in the sense of Revenge of the Sixth or who do not compete with this alternative Star Wars holiday for the Mexican El Cinco de Mayo on May 5, which is also celebrated in the USA May want to see (see also the list of further links below).
Without knowing the exact background, the aforementioned criticism or skepticism about the official version of the rights holder seems to have played a not insignificant role in the creation of these alternative dates.
May 20th as Empire Day in Great Britain and the Galactic Empire
Back to the UK again. There they celebrated May 20th between 1902 and 1958 as so-called Empire Day to commemorate the founding of the British Empire. In 1958 this event was renamed Commonwealth Day, which has always been held on the second Monday in March since then. The reference to Star Wars arises from the fact that the British premiere of Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back fell on May 20, 1980 and was taken up again by fans of the film under the original name. In fact, a holiday of the same name can also be found in the stories from the galaxy far, far away. The Star Wars Rebels series reports on an Empire Day, which is celebrated in honor of the founding of the galactic empire by Emperor Palpatine (see also the list of related links below).
In honor of the world premiere of Star Wars: Star Wars Day in Los Angeles on May 25th
A look at the English language Wikipedia lists both May 4th and May 25th for the term Star Wars Day. The latter is only done in Los Angeles. Because it was there that the first Star Wars film: Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope celebrated its world premiere on May 25, 1977 in Grauman’s Chinese Theater. In honor of this occasion, the Los Angeles City Council declared the date to be local Star Wars Day 30 years later, in 2007 (see also the list of related links below). Interesting side note at this point: This local variant shares the date with the thematically related and internationally celebrated Geek Pride Day.
And who has nothing of you with Star Wars at the hat, alternatively, 4 May as the International Firefighters’ Day), when Petite And Proud Day or National Orange Juice day celebrations. Or simply combine the various occasions with one another.
In this sense: May the force / fourth be with you. No matter which planet you are on right now. 🙂