‘Star Wars’ Day — the Origins of ‘May the 4th Be With You’

It probably doesn’t need to be said, but we’ll say it again for those in the back — Star Wars is a cultural phenomenon. Steven Spielberg knew the 1977 original would be the biggest movie of all time. Fans knew it, too, the moment they saw Princess Leia’s Corellian Corvette defending itself from an Imperial Star Destroyer. We’ve been enthralled since Episode IV: A New Hope introduced us to X-wings, Jedi, stormtroopers, and the Force. The Star Wars saga spawned a legion of loyal fans who utter, “May the 4th be with you” as they celebrate Star Wars Day each year on May 4. Here’s how the annual celebration came to be.

Two people in stormtrooper gear participate in a 'Star Wars' parade in Spain in November 2021, several months before and after the annual May 4th 'Star Wars' Day.
Two stormtroopers on parade | Unanue/Europa Press via Getty Images

The words ‘May the Force be with you’ make a late appearance in ‘Episode IV’

Obi-Wan Kenobi starts teaching Luke about the Force almost as soon as they meet, and he soon gives the young Jedi-to-be an old lightsaber. Obi-Wan begins training Luke in the ways of the Force on the way to Alderaan. The aging Jedi also gives Luke, Han, Chewbacca, R2-D2, and C-3PO an oral introduction to what the Force is.

Yet the words “May the Force be with you” aren’t uttered until late in Episode IV, and they aren’t even spoken by a Jedi.

As the Rebel fighters prepare to attack the Death Star, General Dodonna says, “May the Force be with you, always,” as he dismisses them.

It’s a short line that has had an everlasting impact, and it didn’t take long for those seven words to travel from a galaxy far, far away to ours.

How Star Wars Day started

“May the Force be with you,” officially crossed into the mainstream just two years after we heard them, albeit with a tweak.

Margaret Thatcher won the election to become the UK’s prime minister in 1979. On May 4, the Conservative Party paid for a newspaper ad that read, “May the Fourth Be With You, Maggie. Congratulations!” according to USA Today. And just like that, we had a twist on the original line that later became the official greeting for fans celebrating Star Wars Day.

What started as a congratulatory message morphed into a fan celebration eventually morphed into an official holiday. As ABC 7 Chicago notes, California voted to declare May 4 Star Wars Day in 2019. Meaning “May the 4th be with you” became a customary greeting on an official holiday.

How to celebrate Star Wars Day

Watching all the movies is one way to celebrate Star Wars Day. There is no shortage of options with the original trilogy, prequel trilogy, Disney’s sequel trilogy, and the spin-offs.

Reading canon books and comics, donning a stormtrooper suit or Jedi robe (or even a Star Wars T-shirt), and watching spoofs, including The Simpsonsparody The Force Awakens From its Nap, could be on the docket.

Now that Disney+ has all the movies (even the Ewok movies) as well as The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett series, Star Wars Day celebrations could be movie-focused or episodic TV show-focused. 

No matter how you choose to observe Star Wars Day, we suggest you begin by saying, “May the 4th be with you.”

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