Businesses hope the force is with them on May 4

How Star Wars super-fans celebrate May the Fourth

This past weekend, costumed New Yorkers gathered in a Brooklyn loft to recreate the spirit of a tableau from a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away: the Cantina scene from 1977's "Star Wars."

Note: Everyone left the annual Cantina at the End of the Universe party with appendages intact, and no bounty hunters were harmed during the festivities.

The live stage show, hosted by Brooklyn-based party planners Gemini and Scorpio, was just one of many weekend events held around the world ahead of Star Wars Day on Monday, May 4, a holiday during which fans honor the classic science fiction adventure franchise at grassroots celebrations. Since its inception a few years ago, businesses both big and small have also sought to capitalize on Star Wars nostalgia.

Each May 4, fans tell one another, "May the fourth be with you," a spin on the famous Jedi well wish, "May the force be with you." The pun was first minted by British conservatives in an advertisement cheering on newly elected Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who won the election on May 4, 1979.

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The play on words resurfaced on the Internet as a meme, but the first organized Stars Wars Day event is widely believed to have occurred in Toronto in 2011, when a group of fans convened a costume contest and celebration of all things Star Wars.

"We put on this event as a way to bring Star Wars fans together to celebrate the excellence of this diverse franchise," Alice Quinn, one of the Toronto organizers, told CNBC.

May the Fourth be with you!

The movement grew, spawning a wide range of events, from screenings of the films at bars and restaurants to light-saber demonstrations in New York's Times Square.

Disney, which purchased the Star Wars brand in 2012, now hosts Star Wars Day events at theme parks and its retail stores. This past weekend, Toys 'R Us invited kids to dress up and attend parties, and both Sony's Playstation Network and Microsoft's Xbox Live promoted Star Wars-themed games.

Even retailer Petco is participating with a pet costume contests at select stores.

With a new Star Wars trilogy in production and recently released trailers stoking excitement, the force will likely be strong with fans this May 4.