As with so much that’s great and terrible about modern pop culture, Star Wars started it all. A clever pun with ties to Margaret Thatcher (read on) gradually evolved into the theme for a made-up holiday now celebrated with at least as much passion as many “real” ones — like Labour Day, it’s really the sales that get people’s motors running. Celebrating its acquisition of the Star Wars franchise (and the related licence to print money) just months earlier, Disney kicked off its first Star Wars Day back in 2013, inaugurating a new holiday that brought out the content- and discount-hungry kid in all of us. On May the Fourth, we are all Jedi.
Just a couple of years later, Back to the Future caught up with the future celebrated in the second movie, leading Universal to try for a day of its own. Whether studio- or fan- initiated, bigger and smaller celebrations for memorable movies and shows have followed suit. Some of these days are more “official” and widely celebrated than others, granted. But, ultimately, they’re all 100% made up. You know, like Christmas.
May the Fourth, Star Wars Day (May 4)
Why this day? “May the Fourth Be With You…” Get it?
Credit General Dodonna (Alex McCrindle) with the first use of the the “May the Force be with you” benediction in the Star Wars saga, as Rebel pilots are preparing to assault the first Death Star in the 1977 original movie. It only took two years to evolve into its punnier variant: Britain’s Conservatives took out a newspaper ad proclaiming “May the Fourth Be With You, Maggie…” to celebrate Margaret Thatcher’s victory in the ‘79 general elections (proving that, for better or worse, Star Wars appeals to everyone). Disney, never a company to miss a chance for a marketing blitz, made a big deal of the date in 2013, immediately following its purchase of the franchise. It’s been a thing ever since, especially on social media. This year’s celebration will include:
Sales! On everything from eBooks, stuffed toys, jewellery, clothing, game downloads and gear, action figures, posters…if it has “Star Wars” printed anywhere on it, there’s a decent chance it’ll be on sale somewhere. Also: the premiere of Disney Gallery: The Book of Boba Fett on Disney+. Granted, a documentary about the making of a TV show isn’t the most exciting offering, but there’ll probably be at least a couple of new teasers and trailers for upcoming shows on Disney and Star Wars social media platforms, and potentially, some surprise announcements.
(May the Fourth is also just a reasonable excuse to hang out in your Grogu jammies and binge the good Star Wars movies. Or to play with your wookiee.)
Star Trek Day (Sept. 8)
Why this day? Star Trek debuted in the United States on September 8, 1966.
Though, technically, the show debuted two days earlier in Canada, September 8, 1966 saw the U.S. debut of Star Trek (the original series) with the episode “The Man Trap,” the sixth produced. Star Trek Day as a major event followed on the heels of May the Fourth as a big deal — Trek has become the flagship property on streamer Paramount+, with three live actions series and two animated ones having debuted since Discovery’s first episode back in 2017. Following strictly online events in previous years, 2021 saw a multi-hour, multi-media presentation broadcast from the Skirball Centre in Los Angeles featuring cast members from each show and a live orchestra.
(If you’re busy in September, you’re also invited to celebrate First Contact Day on April 5, which is the day in 2063 on which humanity first makes contact with the Vulcans in the movie First Contact. Or August 12, the generally accepted date for the founding of the United Federation of Planets in 2161.)
Breakaway Day, Space: 1999 (Sept. 13)
Why this day? It commemorates the tragic day when the Moon broke from Earth’s orbit.
Following a nuclear chain reaction brought on by humanity’s shortsighted plan to store waste on the Moon, our satellite was flung from Earth’s orbit on this date in 1999. Contact with Martin Landau, Barbara Bain, and the rest of the crew of Moonrise: Alpha was lost. Though the Brits hold this day in more solemnity than do Americans, it’s a particularly big day in my house.
Mean Girls Day (Oct. 3)
Why this day? Some of the movie takes place on Oct. 3, I guess?
By law, I think, every episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race must be preceded by an airing of Mean Girls (I’m not really exaggerating), which gives you the smallest sense of how the film has only grown in popularity over time. With a stacked cast and a tight, wildly quotable screenplay from Tina Fey, it’s inspired a pretty fetch musical version and endless social media shoutouts. Celebrate with some cheese fries and wear pink, even if it’s not a Wednesday.
Back to the Future Day (Oct. 21)
Why this day? In BTTF 2, Marty and Doc Brown arrive in the “future” on this date in 2015.
Back to the Future, as a movie series, hasn’t really been a going concern since the third movie was released in 1990, so there’s not a giant annual media push around BTTF day — but that’s kinda nice, actually. It’s just a day for thinking about the greatest time travel-trilogy in movie history. In 2015, by contrast, the day was a huge deal: screenings, reveals of Nike shoes inspired by the movie (that I wanted so bad) and Toyota concept cars — even the Obama White House used the day (and the #BacktotheFutureDay hashtag) to host discussions with innovators.
Chrismukkah, The O.C. (Dec. 10)
OK, so a bit of clarification is called for here: The O.C. did not invent Chrismukkah, neither the concept nor the term. Related to Jewish households that also celebrate Christmas, at least in a secular fashion, the term goes back to the 19th century in Germany, and had some popularity in the United States after World War II. What the O.C. did was popularise it in the the 21st century, and fix a date. The show involves a blended household, so it works in all sorts of scenarios.
Galentine’s Day, Parks and Recreation (Feb. 13)
Why this day? It’s just the day before Valentine’s Day.
Galentine’s Day is all about friendship, and particularly about the power of female friendship as celebrated by Leslie Knope in Parks and Rec. Introduced in a 2010 episode, the idea took on a life of its own; it’s a sweet way to celebrate non-romantic companionship — one that became popular enough to inspire marketing and merch. Although you might be able to celebrate without buying stuff.
Festivus, Seinfeld (Dec. 23)
Why this day? I suppose it’s just conveniently situated during the winter holiday season.
Festivus was a real (well, made-up, but real) holiday celebrated by Seinfeld writer Dan O’Keefe before being introduced to the show in a 1997 episode. There are traditions involving a pole and a special dinner, and, of course, Feats of Strength, but the centrepiece is the Airing of Grievances, during which you’re invited to let your loved ones know all the ways in which they’ve disappointed you in the past year. It perfectly fit with Seinfeld’s cynical universe, but it’s survived the years as a welcome chance to vent in the middle of an otherwise schmaltzy (but often incredibly stressful) season.
Breakfast Club Day (March 24)
Why this day? We’ve got detention.
March 24 is, of course, the day when John Hughes’ slightly problematic collection of losers, weirdos, and misfits came together for detention waaaay back in 1985.
Empire Records, Rex Manning Day (April 8)
Why this day? On April 8, Rex Manning will be in-store to sign autographs.
In Empire Records (one of the most ‘90s of all ‘90s movies), the genuinely beautiful Maxwell Caulfield plays Rex Manning, a fading ‘80s pop star working on a comeback. He’s also one of the last hopes for the failing Empire Records store — he’ll be making signing autographs in-store to celebrate his comeback album and maybe, just maybe, he can help save the store. Things don’t go according to plan, but the cult classic movie has generated an endless array of gifs and memes, and even the occasional real-life Rex Manning Day celebration.
Miss Congeniality Day (April 25)
Why this day? In the film, Miss Rhode Island (Heather Burns) responds to William Shatner’s question about a perfect date with “April 25.”
OK, Miss Congeniality Day isn’t really a thing in any official capacity. But just try to get through the day without encountering multiple references to the movie’s bit about April 25 being the perfect date on Twitter. You’d have an easier time avoiding President’s Day.
Alien Day (April 26)
Why this day? In Alien, that’s the day the Nostromo finds trouble on Archeron, also known as LV-426.
20th Century Fox began celebrating Alien Day back in 2016 to mark the 30th anniversary of Aliens (that’s the second Alien movie). On a corporate level, the day generally involves sales and merch releases (a new novel, Alien: Colony War, was the big release for 2022).