May the 4th Be With You: How Margaret Thatcher’s rise launched a Star Wars tradition

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“May the 4th Be With You” has come to be a rallying cry for Star Wars fans each year, even though the date has no intrinsic significance to George Lucas’ space opera. The original Star Wars film premiered on May 25, 1977 — but May 4 has become an unofficial kick-off date for summerlong celebrations such as Disney’s Star Wars Weekends and milestones such as this year’s 30th anniversary of Return of the Jedi’s release on May 25, 1983.

Why? It just sounds cool! But there is a reason for the May 4 — and it’s rife with political undertones.

According to Lucasfilm’s archives, one of the earliest known uses of the punny greeting in popular culture comes from a 1979 newspaper ad congratulating Margaret Thatcher on her historic election as Britain’s first woman prime minister:

This message, referring to the day of victory, was “May the Fourth Be With You, Maggie. Congratulations.”

(This nugget comes from author Alan Arnold, who wrote about the making of The Empire Strikes Back for Lucasfilm.)

Of course, the Internet age was a while away, but when it arrived, it took the catchy message and ran with it. The Twitter hashtag #MayThe4thBeWithYou will no doubt be trending, as fans gather virtually on that social network and many others to geek out collectively about the best ways to celebrate the Galaxy Far, Far Away.

How will you mark May 4?

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