Celebrating the Force


It’s a pun that was initially used to celebrate the election of the first female Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. A meme long before the Internet was born, “May the 4th Be With You” organically morphed into the first worldwide holiday for one of the biggest movie franchises in the world: Star Wars. Its popularity can be quickly demonstrated by a simple Google search for “May the 4th Be With You.” In nearly a quarter of a second, you’ll be presented with approximately one billion results.

Longtime acolytes and fans know that Star Wars isn’t just any old movie, but one that truly justifies that overused word “phenomenon.” And if Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative Party wanted to hype her victory on May 4, 1979 with a newspaper ad that blared “May the 4th Be With You, Maggie. Congratulations!” who could blame it for trying to tie the party to the then-most popular movie in the British Isles?

It was exactly 15 years later that a member of the opposition Labour Party, Harry M. Cohen, used the phrase to say May 4 was an appropriate day to debate the defense budget because it could be called “national Star Wars Day.” It still took more than another decade before “May the 4th Be With You” started catching on in fandom. At first it was just a punch line to an unspoken joke. When people began mentioning a Star Wars holiday, they may as well have been referring to May 25, 1977—the day the movie opened on 32 theater screens in the U.S.

But as the Internet was born and began growing, so did Star Wars Day. One story became a hundred, and that exploded into a thousand… bringing the count to a mere 909,000,000 options on Google.

What’s even more amazing is the way that “May the 4th Be With You” has leaped what would seem to be insurmountable language barriers. “Que la Cuarta estar contigo,” sounds great in Spanish, and so does “Que le quatrième soit avec vous” in French. And Danish National Radio, for example, describes the day on its website as “sacred to fans of George Lucas’ universe.”

In 2012, Star Wars and the expansive Lucasfilm universe officially joined The Walt Disney Company, marking one of the most historic acquisitions of all time. Since then, fans—along with Lucasfilm, Disney, licensees, retailers, online and broadcast media—have been pitching in to make Star Wars Day all the more special and exciting. This year, the excitement kicks off with the worldwide trailer debut for the upcoming animated series Star Wars Rebels, set to launch on Disney Channel and Disney XD in the fall. And next year, we’ll be just a few months away from the premiere of the highly anticipated galactic adventure, Star Wars: Episode VII.