The 'Star Wars' universe celebrates Life Day today with red robes, glowing orbs and goodwill

Star Wars Life Day
A family of Wookiees celebrates Life Day. (Image credit: Disney Lucasfilm Press)

Happy Life Day! Or as the Wookiees say, "RRRAARRWHHGWWR."

Steeped in Wookiee culture and celebrating the spirit of life, joy and brotherhood, Life Day has arrived in the Star Wars universe today. For those uninitiated or unfamiliar with Life Day, its ceremonial roots were derived from that most notorious of ill-fated seasonal programs known as "The Star Wars Holiday Special," whose renowned prime time broadcast occurred exactly 45 years ago today on November 17, 1978.

Intended to keep "Star Wars" and its flood of toys and merchandise in fans' minds until "The Empire Strikes Back" arrived in May of 1980, that much maligned and ridiculed program centered around Han Solo and Chewbacca attempting to return to the forested Wookiee homeworld of Kashyyyk in time to celebrate Life Day. That effort required the duo to ditch Darth Vader and the Empire's pursuing army, while on Kashyyyk, Chewie's wife Malla prepares a Life Day banquet as their son Lumpy checks out a cartoon showing Han and Chewie teaming up with the duplicitous bounty hunter Boba Fett for his very first appearance in the "Star Wars" universe. 

Original "Star Wars" cast members seen in this fiasco were Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew, and James Earl Jones (voice). 

Lumpy and Chewie in "The Star Wars Holiday Special" (Image credit: CBS/Lucasfilm)

Guest stars included '70s-era stars Bea Arthur, Harvey Korman, Diahann Carroll, Art Carney and Jefferson Starship. The cringe-worthy affair was aired once and tucked away in the Lucasfilm vaults forever, but inquisitive internet culture has resurrected the cheesy special from old vhs tapes and clips that have spawned a flood of new Life Day references in video games, storybooks, tie-in novels and comic books.

Per, Lucasfilm's director of publishing Carol Wikarska Titelman had a more detailed explanation of Life Day based on past interviews with George Lucas:

"[Life Day] used to be a hallucinogenic experience. They used to chew a certain kind of root, and they would all freak out and experience this communal sort of hallucinatory experience. Some of the families still use that, but since it makes you sick afterward, many use the environmental transporter.

"In either case, you are taken to the Life Tree which is the tree of life where all life began in the Wookiee culture and … religion. On this tree you put a symbol of life, which is a little glowing ball. In the old days, you chewed on the root and went into this hallucinatory state and took your little glowing [ball] along with all your family. You put them on your mantel or arrange them on the wall… but when you did this you were symbolically arranging them on the tree of life.

"At the tree of life, all the people you know, all your friends, appear before you and wish you well. It includes everybody you’ve ever known, dead or alive… It is a way of gathering all your friends in one particular moment…"

All robed-up and ready for Life Day in "The Star Wars Holiday Special." (Image credit: CBS/Lucasfilm)

In the wake of the Galactic Empire's iron-fisted rule, Life Day spread beyond the verdant Wookiee planet and sprouted up across the galaxy far, far away as an annual celebration that showcased traditional food and beverage treats, strings of colored lights, music, and dancing that honored peace, freedom and the gift of life. 

However and wherever you remember this joyous "Star Wars" holiday whose heritage might be slightly embarrassing, a Happy Life Day to all!

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Jeff Spry
Contributing Writer

Jeff Spry is an award-winning screenwriter and veteran freelance journalist covering TV, movies, video games, books, and comics. His work has appeared at SYFY Wire, Inverse, Collider, Bleeding Cool and elsewhere. Jeff lives in beautiful Bend, Oregon amid the ponderosa pines, classic muscle cars, a crypt of collector horror comics, and two loyal English Setters.