Ah, Star Wars Day. For fans of the beloved Lucasfilm franchise, May 4th has become a day to celebrate collective adoration of the fantastical space adventure loved by kids and adults alike. The play on words gives the date a fun nod to the Jedi catch phrase, “may the force (fourth) be with you”. What more do we need to mark our calendars and call it a holiday?! And with the opening of Disney’s Galaxy’s Edge in 2019, it’s an even bigger chance for enthusiasts to celebrate.
Surprisingly, the date’s origins have less to do with Star Wars and more to do with politics. The phrase was initially coined on May 4, 1979, to celebrate the victorious election of everyone’s favorite first female British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher. Her party peers bestowed their felicitations in local publications, stating “May the Fourth Be with You, Maggie. Congratulations,” making clear that the namesake film was so impactful even Parliament couldn’t resist the wordplay.
Quite unintentional, but it stuck! The phrase was reused sporadically throughout the years until the epic space opera came back into popularity in the 1990’s, showcasing new films that revived the saga and turned it into an even bigger pop culture phenomenon. This new content, combined with the rise of the internet, enabled devotees to connect over shared fandom, further solidifying the “holiday.” As a new fan base grew, so too did the celebrations, stretching globally and beyond. The term popped up in chat rooms, blog comments and Facebook groups, eventually being used as a pretext to host an official Star Wars themed Toronto event in May of 2011. Festivities even made their way to the International Space Station, where astronauts celebrated the day by watching the classic original film (Emperor Palpatine would be proud)! Finally in 2013, having purchased Lucasfilm, the Walt Disney Company began observing the holiday in earnest, making the unofficial holiday as official as it gets.
There are endless ways to celebrate your fandom, especially here in Orlando. Galaxy’s Edge, the quintessential pilgrimage for any Star Wars fan, has everything you could want in a near-completely immersive experience. If you’re looking for local fun, Orlando has no shortage of Star Wars fans looking for ways to come together. While these events generally aren’t “official,” since the IP is held by Disney, some rebels are willing to risk it all in the name of love. From neighborhood theaters playing the favorites to bars with themed happy hour specials, the opportunities to celebrate are endless. So, check local calendars to see what pops up. You’ll find yourself in the company of other Jedi’s, Sith Lords, or even the Empire, depending on your inclination.