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

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May the 4th Be With You

“May the Fourth 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, and although Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens broke with that and opened Dec. 18, May 4 has become an unofficial kick-off date for summerlong observances such as Disney’s Star Wars Weekends and Celebrations

Why? It just sounds cool! But there is a reason for the May 4 — and, appropriately enough, 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 topic will no doubt be trending again today, and the official Star Wars Twitter channel has been promoting #StarWarsDay. Join other fans as they 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?

This post originally appeared May 2, 2013, and has been updated.

About Jayson Peters

Nerdvana's founder and owner. A former East Valley Tribune copy editor, page designer and website editor, he is now Digital Editor for The Pueblo Chieftain in Southern Colorado, a web design instructor at Pueblo Community College and president of the Southern Colorado Press Club. He has contributed to the popular GeekDad blog and taught online media at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, his alma mater. Lifelong Star Wars fan and Trekker who also worships all things Tolkien and Doctor Who.