What Is Life Day? The Meaning Behind the Wookiee-Originated Holiday

By , Staff Writer
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A not-so-long time ago, in a galaxy of our own, the people behind Star Wars really wanted to put on a variety show that coincided with the holidays. The show was full of celebrity cameos, performances from the likes of Jefferson Starship and Bea Arthur, and the first appearance of Boba Fett, but the one thing that seems to have clung on after the special’s one (and only) broadcast is the holiday of Life Day.

The Meaning of Life Day

Life Day is a canonical holiday in the Star Wars Universe. Canon refers to "all the material of a fictional work that is officially part of the story, affecting the larger machinations of that universe." In canon, the holiday is traditionally celebrated by Wookiees, including those who live on their home planet of Kashyyyk and those across the galaxy.

As you can imagine from the name, the holiday is a celebration of life. However, the name may also come from the main tradition that involves traveling to the Tree of Life on Kashyyyk. Legends say that the Tree of Life (also referred to as the Life Tree) created all life on Kashyyyk, from the Wookiees to the trees.

These days, all species celebrate the holiday, from Trandoshans to Rodians to, yes, even humans. The holiday specifically honors parts of Wookiee culture that exist far into the outer reaches of the galaxy, including family, peace, harmony, and love.

The Meaning of “Lifeday” or “Life-Day”

Outside of the Wookiee holiday, you have the word lifeday, more often written as life-day. This is a now archaic word that simply means “a day or some period in a person’s life.”

  • I spent a life-day putting together that model airplane.
  • It took a lifeday for Chewie to fix the ship’s compressor.

In its plural form, lifedays or life-days refers to a person’s entire lifetime (as in “all the days of your life”).

  • I could have spent all my lifedays studying, and I still wouldn’t have understood that physics book.
  • In his entire lifedays, Chewbacca had no trouble growing facial hair.

Where Did Life Day Come From?

Life Day debuted in the Star Wars Universe in 1978 with Star Wars Holiday Special, which saw Chewbacca and his friends traveling to Kashyyyk to celebrate the holiday, all while escaping the Empire.

Note: The Star Wars Holiday Special is part of the Star Wars Legends line, meaning that it wasn't considered canon then. However, since its introduction, Life Day has been mentioned in various other novels, stories, and games set in the Star Wars Universe. It eventually became an entry in the Star Wars Databank, making it officially canon.

When Is Life Day?

It’s hard to really pinpoint when Life Day occurs in canon considering our standard Gregorian calendar is mostly useless outside of Earth. For example, a year on the desert planet of Tatooine is 304 days, and one day on Tatooine is 23 hours. In other words, there’s no officially noted date for Life Day in the Star Wars Universe.

On Earth, fans made the holiday their own, designating November 17 of every year as Life Day. That’s usually a week before American Thanksgiving, but most importantly, it’s the day the Star Wars Holiday Special premiered back in 1978.

Is Life Day Similar to Christmas?

Life Day has made its way out of the Star Wars Extended Universe and into real life, and while it might share some similarities with Christmas, it was likely intended as more of an analogue to Thanksgiving. Life Day’s celebrations involve feasting on good food (like a dessert known as Wookiee-ookiees), singing songs, spending time with loved ones, and decorating.

Unlike Christmas, Life Day doesn’t involve exchanging gifts, and it does not involve a Santa-adjacent stand-in who gives gifts to children. Most prominently, Life Day isn’t a winter holiday.

Life Day Greetings and Celebrations

Life Day comes with plenty of celebrations and traditions, both in canon and in real life. You don’t even need a faster-than-light craft to have a fun Life Day.

“Happy Life Day”

If there is an official Shyriiwook (the main Wookiee dialect) greeting, it’d probably consist of a lot of barks, grunts, and growls. In lieu of that, you can greet someone with a simple “Happy Life Day.”

Life Day Decor

In Star Wars canon, decor can include lights, streamers, and just about any other festive thing that Wookiees can muster. Wookiees also cover the Tree of Life with Life Day Orbs, which are large, crystalline, glowing balls.

In real life, decor tends to resemble traditional Christmas decor. String lights are the norm, and many people who celebrate make mini “Life Trees” of their own, decorated with various orb ornaments.

Life Day Food

Feasting is one of the regular components of Life Day. Most of the treats suspiciously resemble foods that we know and love in real life. That includes Hoth chocolate (hot chocolate made from tauntaun milk) and Wookiee-ookies, which are Wookiee-shaped cookies.

Other Pop Culture Holidays

Enjoyers of all media have found various holidays to help them celebrate all the diverse facets of life. You never need an excuse to spend time with loved ones and eat good food, but occasions like Life Day and Festivus help to bring everyone together and beat back that cold, lousy Smarch weather.