How Margaret Thatcher May Have Inadvertently Launched Star Wars Day

It feels like there's a holiday or just a "day" for everything, doesn't it? That list includes National Rubber Ducky Day on January 13, and No Brainer Day on February 27, to mention only a few of the most unexpected (via Holidays Calendar). One unofficial holiday which has caught on lately is Star Wars Day. It happens on May 4, as in "May the fourth be with you" — see what they did there? But Star Wars Day on "May the fourth" has an interesting story beyond just clever wordplay. Surprisingly, that story includes former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and the year that she first came to office, as People Magazine explains.

Margaret Thatcher was British prime minister from 1979 — only a few years after the first Star Wars movie came out — to 1990, as Britannica explains. Much like Ronald Reagan in the U.S, Thatcher came to power on a wave of conservative political reform. It was also the height of the Cold War, and tensions ran high over the threat of nuclear war between the West — including the United States and the U.K. — and the Soviet Union, as History notes.  A brand-new missile defense system launched by the Reagan administration from that era was also, funny enough, called Star Wars, according to Britannica. All this combined set the stage for the first time that "May the Fourth be with you" was first uttered.

The `79 British election gave the Tories a reason to celebrate

The 1979 election that brought Margaret Thatcher to power was remarkable for a number of reasons. Thatcher was the first female British prime minister in history, and her Tory, or conservative party, soundly beat the more left-leaning Labour Party. She would win re-election in landslides twice more, in `83 and `87. At 11 years, Thatcher's administration, in fact, would be the longest of any twentieth-century U.K. prime minister, per Britannica.

Also around the same time Thatcher was elected, the first Star Wars film, "A New Hope," now considered episode IV in the saga, was an international sensation. The timing of general elections in the U.K. does vary somewhat but they're most often held in May. (via Politics) Such was the case in the `79 general election which brought the Tories, and Thatcher, to power. To mark the occasion, Thatcher's colleagues took out a newspaper ad in the London Evening News, and in it, there was a Star Wars reference. "May the Fourth Be With You, Maggie. Congratulations!" the ad read, as WFAA reports.

The Labour party picked up the phrase 15 years later

The London Evening News newspaper ad on May 4, 1979, is the first known instance of someone using "May the fourth be with you" as a play on words based on the famous "Star Wars" saying "may the force be with you." And, it would be some time later that those words would pop up again in the U.K. popular lexicon. This time, though, it was the British opposition party, the Labour Party, that used it, and Margaret Thatcher had been out of office for some time (via Star Wars).

It was then that British Labour Party member Harry Cohen (pictured) referenced "May the fourth be with you" on that date on the calendar. This time, Cohen used it when referring to the British defense budget, quickly clarifying it was the "Star Wars" movies and not the American missile defense system that he was talking about. And, about a decade after that, "May the fourth be with you," picked up steam among Star Wars faithful. Now, it's commonly said among true believers each time the calendar turns from May, 3 to May, 4, commonly known as "Star Wars Day."