May 4th has become more powerful than the other days of the year could possibly imagine, thanks to its designation as Star Wars Day. The obvious pun #MayThe4thBeWithYou becomes an annual trending hashtag, but how did this holiday develop?
Apparently we can thank former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, or at least an ad released in her honor. (Don Draper, should we really thank you?)
The first Star Wars film, Episode IV, "A New Hope," was released in the U.S. on May 25, 1977. That's not quite May 4, so you can't credit the initial release for the holiday. However, two years after that, on May 4, 1979, Thatcher took office as prime minister, and that's where it all began.
Here's the history from the official Star Wars site:
One of the earliest known records of "May the 4th" used in popular culture is in 1979, as described here by author Alan Arnold while he was chronicling the making of The Empire Strikes Back for Lucasfilm:
Friday, May 4
"Margaret Thatcher has won the election and become Britain's first woman prime minister. To celebrate their victory her party took a half page of advertising space in the London Evening News. This message, referring to the day of victory, was 'May the Fourth Be With You, Maggie. Congratulations,' further proof of the extent to which Star Wars has influenced us all."
Once the Internet allowed Star Wars fans around the world to connect with one another, May the 4th soon became a grassroots tradition each year, with fans online and offline proclaiming it "Star Wars Day."
According to People, the term "May the Fourth Be With You" was used again on May 4, 1994 in a U.K. Parliament defense debate. But the Internet's Force wasn't strong back then, so May 4 didn't turn into a viral event until years later. The Toronto Underground Cinema organized the first official Star Wars Day in 2011, and now it's an international holiday.
Of course, now there's a whole Star Wars revival, with the success of Episode VII "The Force Awakens" -- starring the two people in the photo above -- plus the standalone film "Rogue One" coming later this year, and Episodes VIII and IX in the works.
Now, every May 4, the Internet can get together and celebrate with tweets, memes, gifs, and other ways to waste time as a family. May the 4th be with us, always!
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