May the Fourth Be With You: What is Star Wars Day and how did it start?

It's a play on one of the franchise's most famous phrases, but its origins date back far, far away from social media

Storm Troopers march inside a mall during Star Wars Day on May 4, 2023 in Hong Kong. Getty Images
Powered by automated translation

It might just feel like any other Thursday, but today is a truly important day in certain cultural circles. It is May 4 — also known as Star Wars Day.

For the uninitiated, fans of George Lucas’s sci-fi franchise have officially adopted May 4 as their holiday, thanks to a play on one of the most famous lines from the films: “May the force be with you.”

In recent years, Yoda-themed memes have been shared across social media and the #StarWarsDay hashtag trends each May 4, but its origins date back far, far away from the days of Twitter and Instagram.

Where did it all begin?

While it isn't clear exactly when people started to celebrate May 4 as Star Wars Day, newspaper records trace the first use of "May the Fourth Be With You" back to 1979. The phrase was used in an advertisement placed by the Conservative Party in the London Evening News, congratulating Margaret Thatcher on her ascendance to prime minister. "May the Fourth Be With You, Maggie. Congratulations," the advertisement read.

In the years that followed, the pun continued to make its way into politics and popular culture, and in 2008, the first official Facebook group was created to mark the day, although then, it was called Luke Skywalker Day.

Three years later, the first official in-person celebration of Star Wars Day took place in Toronto, Canada, featuring trivia quizzes, game shows, screenings and a costume competition.

In 2013, after Disney purchased Lucasfilm, Star Wars Day was fully embraced and a number of special events were held at Disneyland and Walt Disney World to mark the occasion.

How is Star Wars Day being celebrated?

Star Wars Day was trending on Twitter on Thursday, as people celebrated with memes and their favourite clips from the franchise.

Popular UK Twitter account, All On The Board, which posts daily inspirational messages in London's underground stations, celebrated the occasion with a Star Wars-inspired message.

Cinema chain, Everyman Cinema, also Tweeted to mark the occasion.

Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, meanwhile, shared a throwback photo of his daughters with a Storm Trooper.