May the Fourth Be With You! Or at least if you are reading this article on the day of its publishing.
May the Fourth might be the official “Star Wars holiday” on Earth, but how about holidays in the Galaxy Far, Far Away? The Rebels, Imperials, Jedi, wookiees or gungans surely must have also special days they celebrate, right?
Turns out, there is more than enough holidays celebrated in the Star Wars universe that we know about. But let us take a look at least at few select ones.
This is one festival directly referenced in the films. If you know Phantom Menace well, you will remember. Anakin’s victorious podrace is held on the occasion of the Boonta Eve celebration. But what is actually Boonta Eve?
Funnily enough, there is now more than one explanation of the event, both canonical in their own time. One explanation is that the festival commemorated Boonta the Hutt’s ascension to godhood. An older explanation, not official by the current canon, was that the Eve commemorated Boonta the Hutt’s victorious last stand against Xim the Despot, whose empire in the current Outer Rim (pre-dating the Republic) threatened the Hutt space. To commemorate this, the Hutt holiday was celebrated by slaves renewing their vows of obeisance, and their masters would give them treats and gifts and host feasts for them.
I think there is no reason why we couldn’t accept both explanations (and that is my rule also in regards to other formerly canonical lore: as long as it does not contradict anything else, and it is interesting enough, there is no reason not to keep it). Especially because the original explanation is much more flavourful and gives much more depth to the Star Wars universe. Hutts may be disgusting, and their holidays should reflect it, but they are part of the Star Wars universe and there is no reason we should not learn more also about their culture.
Republic Day, Empire Day…
Most of the holidays in the Galaxy are planetary or culture-specific. There are, however, some holidays which aim for being Galaxy-wide. The major governing bodies always held festivals on the days commemorating their constitution as well as important events in their history.
The Galactic Republic, even in its waning days, celebrated the Republic Day commemorating its foundation on the nineteenth day of the third month according to the standardized galactic calendar (this, too, is no longer recognised as official canon). After the defeat of the Empire, the New Republic re-instated this day as a special occasion for commemoration of the historical date. Other celebrations remembering the victories of the Rebels also existed in later days. It is safe to assume that the victory in the Battle of Yavin, where the first Death Star was destroyed, would also be celebrated, because Battle of Yavin served as the starting point of the new calendar introduced after the Empire’s defeat.
The Empire Day, on the other hand, celebrated the end of the Clone Wars – basically the day when Palpatine proclaimed himself the Emperor and all the other horrible things happened. Luke and Leia were born only two days after the original date of the Empire Day, and those familiar with Star Wars Rebels would know the Empire Day also coincided with Ezra Bridger’s birthday (so yes, he is two days older than the Skywalker twins).
Republic’s debatable victory in the Clone Wars was good enough reason to distract the public from any other events of the day and remind the citizens how grateful they should be for the Empire’s rule. Parades and fireworks, however in controlled style, and forced participation and forced cheering do not surprise us from a totalitarian state like the Empire was. The festivities were usually accompanied by appropriate, cheerful “patriotic” music, such as the Imperial anthem, which was essentially the Imperial March in major key.
Festival of Lights and Other Planetary Celebrations
Most planets had their own important holidays, usually related to major events in their history. Agricultural planets with certain year-cycle often celebrated the days of harvest. Harvest was often celebrated in less usual ways in some unlikely places, however: on the desert planet of Tatooine, where moisture had to be normally collected from the vaporators such as the ones around the Skywalker farm, the denizens gathered once per year to celebrate the harvest of water.
Natural cycles, while obviously differing from world to world, were however still often marked in some way in the life of the planets. Thus, for example, Hosnian Prime (the planet that hosted the New Republic Senate during the events of The Force Awakens) had its own celebration of autumn equinox, during which the inhabitants flew sunsails (light gliding crafts powered by sunlight) above the surface of Hosnian rivers. As the light faded, the gliders would slowly drop towards the water. In Claudia Gray’s novel Bloodline, a meeting between Princess Leia’s confidantes when she was on the trail of a conspiracy against the New Republic took place during these festivities.
What connected many Republic member worlds, however, were festivals commemorating their planet’s entry to the Republic. The planet of Naboo, for example, celebrated it by the Festival of Lights (featured in the Clone Wars animated series episode “Crisis on Naboo”).
A festival which certainly deserves to be mentioned is the Life Day. A Wookiee festival by origin, it was celebrated on their home planet of Kashyyyk by families gathering around the Tree of Life, the sacred tree of the Wookiees.
The similarity to Christmas tree is more than coincidental. Life Day was first mentioned in the 1978 Star Wars Holiday Special (something every fan of Star Wars does not need to see), which begins with Han Solo accompanying Chewbacca to visit his family on the holiday. Since then, however, Life Day has become the equivalent for holiday with presents under a decorated tree in the Star Wars universe. It is referenced in books, comics, but probably most notably in online games, which tend to mirror the Life Day celebration to real-time holidays.
All-Species Week deserves to be mentioned as an example of holidays kept even during the Empire’s reign. It was celebrated especially enthusiastically by the inhabitants of Coruscant, for whom it commemorated the diversity of the planet’s population. On the days of the festivities, the streets of Coruscant would be literally clogged by traffic and by sentient beings celebrating the holiday.
It was on one of the days of this week when Galen Erso, the scientist who had been working on the Death Star project against his conscience, managed to escape the capital planet and go to hiding with his family. The traffic and chaos caused by the festivities contributed to the fact that director Krennic would not reach him in time to prevent his desertion.
Thousands of Worlds, Thousands of Festivals
One need not stop here, because there are more than enough holidays in the Star Wars universe, whether referenced in the films, animated shows, books, comics, or games. I am sure the ever-expanding Star Wars canon will show us more in the future as well. But I am sure each of us can pick our favourite among those we have and celebrate it as we see fit. For today, May the Fourth Be With You.