Discover how Life Day went from a small piece of Star Wars history to a holiday that’s now celebrated by fans everywhere.
November 17 is a special day within the Star Wars universe, especially for Wookiees. It’s a sacred holiday – Life Day – that involves gathering at the Life Tree and celebrating all of those who you know and have known. Life Day might seem relatively new, especially since it’s been celebrated at Disney theme parks only recently and has not seen much conversation in the many different stories and universes within the Star Wars world. But this holiday is a tradition, and a piece of lore that’s actually been around for 45 years.
Life Day actually started out as a bit of a sore spot for Star Wars fans. However, in the many years since it was first mentioned, it’s gone from rarely mentioned to openly celebrated – and we’re taking a look at its unique trajectory.
Life Day First Begins in 1978
If you’re wondering where Life Day came from, you’re not alone. Unless you’ve watched the infamous The Star Wars Holiday Special that first aired as a prime-time broadcast in 1978, you probably haven’t heard much about it.
That’s right: Life Day originated from this totally bizarre and kind of cheesy production. The Star Wars Holiday Special may have been absolutely wacky and wild when it premiered, but it did introduce the world to Life Day for the very first time. In fact, the entire variety-show-style special centered around the holiday, as the storyline followed Han Solo as he tried to get Chewbacca home to Kashyyyk in time for Life Day.
Interestingly, according to documents created for The Star Wars Holiday Special, Life Day was actually intended to be a whole-galaxy holiday. It was supposed to be a one-day event that celebrated life and brotherhood with a festival, with each planet taking a turn as host. Ultimately, though, when the special aired the holiday had transformed into a Wookiee-only event.
Like the holiday special itself, Life Day wasn’t really mentioned nor seen again after that initial airing. And when it did get mentioned in other Star Wars stories or media, its history got a little funky.
The Lore Got Complicated Over the Years
The next time Life Day showed up in Star Wars history, it was in a study of Wookiee culture that came from a Lucasfilm director’s interviews with George Lucas himself in the 1970s. Here, Life Day took a bit of a weird spin.
In that study, Life Day is called “a hallucinogenic experience” that involves chewing a particular kind of plant root and a communal hallucinatory event that Wookiee families took part in together. During the event, it was said that all of the people a Wookiee knows or has known (dead or alive) will appear and wish them well. The celebration – or trip – ends at the Life Tree, where Wookiees gather to place their glowing orbs.
Apparently, Life Day was so meaningful to Chewbacca that, according to the storyline of The Star Wars Holiday Special, he’d never once missed a Life Day.
But that may or may not be true. It depends on what Star Wars stories you’ve read! Ironically, the very year after The Holiday Special aired, a newspaper comic strip revealed that Life Day actually took place every three years – not every year, as we’d previously learned.
So, what’s the official story? Well, we never quite got an answer, because that was the last mention of Chewbacca’s beloved holiday for quite some time.
Life Day Disappeared for a Few Decades
After being mentioned in both 1978 and 1979 as part of Star Wars Wookiee lore, Life Day seemed like it was becoming canon. But surprisingly, after those two stories, the holiday totally disappeared.
It wasn’t too big of a surprise that Life Day wasn’t mentioned again. After the not-so-successful premiere of The Star Wars Holiday Special, there weren’t exactly many fans clamoring for another one. The only way fans who’d missed the original airing would even know about Life Day was if they happened to catch that one-time comic strip.
Plus, Star Wars as a franchise essentially went dark once Star Wars: Return of the Jedi premiered in 1983. It was only the very dedicated members of the Star Wars fanbase that remained interested in and engaged with the characters and stories – and it was also these fans who kept Life Day alive during the 1980s, 1990s, and early 2000s.
Video Games Brought the Wookiee Holiday Back
Speaking of the early 2000s, it took roughly 20 years for Life Day to resurface in popular culture. Its resurgence came from a surprising source: video games!
In the early 2000s, there was a host of Star Wars-themed multiplayer video games that became quite popular among video game enthusiasts young and old. Games like Star Wars Galaxies (2003), Clone War Adventures (2010), and Star Wars: The Old Republic (2011) captivated players. And, even more importantly, each one of these games featured some kind of mention or celebration of Life Day in their gameplay.
As a result increasingly more Star Wars fans – and younger fans who’d never even seen The Star Wars Holiday Special – learned about Life Day, and it began to feel like a key holiday within the larger universe of the films, series, stories, and video games.
Of course, thanks to the Internet, increasingly more fans were also able to discover the holiday as longtime Star Wars fans uploaded The Holiday Special and shared its uniquely oddball storyline. Even if that one-time TV special isn’t really considered part of the official Star Wars lore, it did introduce the world to Life Day, and there are now numerous places in which Life Day has returned and been celebrated, making it pretty official.
Today, this once-forgotten Wookiee holiday is back at the forefront of Star Wars fans’ minds, thanks to increasing prominence and promotion by Disney. In fact, in recent years the day has become a legitimate holiday within the Star Wars universe, and it’s now widely celebrated by fans as well as characters onscreen.
For example, The LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special (2020) brought both Life Day and that old holiday special back into the forefront of popular culture with its own whimsical take. The Star Wars Adventures comics series (2021) also references Life Day, along with a one-shot from Marvel Comic that same year. And if you’re a fan of The Mandalorian on Disney+, you likely recall the very first episode, in which the Fledgling Mythrol mentions Life Day as he’s taken captive by our beloved bounty hunter.
Additionally, Disney theme parks are officially celebrating Life Day too, with the arrival of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World Resort and Disneyland Park at Disneyland Resort. November 2022 marked the very first in-park celebration, with special food offerings, unique experiences on Batuu in both theme parks, and even a special line of merchandise.
So, if you’ve been wanting to don your robes and hang glowing orbs from your mantel (or your very own Life Tree), you certainly won’t be celebrating alone!