When Disney acquired Lucasfilm, it was only a matter of time before they took a kernel of merchandising potential and ran with it. Yes, the The Star Wars Holiday Special in 1978 was a disaster (a beautiful disaster) but the gold nugget, besides Boba Fett, was Life Day. A fabricated holiday in Star Wars that is slowly but surely going to increase in presence across all Star Wars content to sell holiday merchandise. This is a cynical way of looking at Life Day, but I wanted to get that out of the way to say that Life Day Treasury: Holiday Stories from a Galaxy Far, Far, Away is still a delightful way to spend your time reading to get into the holiday spirit (it is a breeze at 133 pages). George Mann and Cavan Scott attempt to add Star Wars lore and new stories through various holiday traditions in the galaxy.
**Mild spoilers for Life Day Treasury**
Life Day Treasury consists of eight short stories that cover all the familiar canon timelines: some stories take place in the High Republic, near the Clone Wars, and during the Original Trilogy. Some might take place during the Sequel Trilogy though that is less clear.
Stories like “A Coruscant Solstice” feel more personal to the characters involved, where Stellan Gios learns a lesson in class differences between the upper and lower levels of Coruscant society and who can afford to celebrate the Solstice Tide. “The Song of Winter’s Heart” spans the life of two Alderaanian friends as they grow and end up on different sides of the Galactic war. It has shades of the Christmas Truce of 1914 from real-world history in which British, French, and German forces had a momentary ceasefire for Christmas. The story as a whole is proof that Star Wars is at its best when it pulls from history and combines that with classic themes.
There are also more light-hearted stories with fewer stakes: while reading “An Old Hope” I could not help but wonder if the secret lesson from the main droid risking his well-being by playing Santa to other droids was to make sure you get credit for your work. “Reflection Day,” which takes place on Jedha, could have been heavy (given what happens in Rogue One), but it turns out to be a simple story of finding love in unexpected places. And we cannot have a holiday tale without Ewoks. Their story combines a little horror in the form of a Krampus-like monster that the Ewok elders build up as a warning not to wander off from the village at night.
Since this started with Life Day, a story dedicated to the holiday and its contributions to the galaxy makes sense. “The Tree of Life” wisely includes the first Wookie family (Itchy, Malla, Lumpy, and Chewbacca) and expands the lore of Life Day, melding Christmas ornamentation with the blessings of lighted candles of Hanukkah (here its orbs), and the Dia De Los Muertos vibes of remembering loved ones who have passed.
The POV varies as some stories, like “The Kindling,” have embedded narratives (stories within the story) that cast a cold distance between the reader and the characters. I am sure this is intentional as those stories involve more supernatural occurrences that feel slightly out of place in Star Wars. This causes a slight disconnect from the action happening in the storyteller’s time and the tale the characters are sharing.
As I mentioned previously, there are well-known names that make an appearance in some of these stories. One story revolves around a central character in The High Republic saga, Stellan Gios. Other than that, Obi-Wan Kenobi makes an appearance in “An Old Hope” (though he is never named), and Chewbacca and Han Solo close out the collection in “The Tree of Life.” The existing characters do not distract from the stories, and Obi-Wan Kenobi’s presence is quite clever in connecting to a real-world holiday and its famous jolly figurehead. Wicket, Logray, Kneesa, and Chirpa are all welcome faces in the Ewok tale, and it is always nice to understand what they are saying, something that can only work on the page (although the Ewoks animated show just had them speaking Basic).
One of the problems in A Lifeday Treasury is that some stories focus so much on the holiday traditions and atmosphere that it is often at the expense of the main characters. The story of “The Song of Winter’s Heart” is beautiful, but the two leads, Rel and Max, are forgettable. It is also hard to stay engaged in “The “Kindling” with Twi’lek Fanya and her rebel friend because of a framed story structure. Meanwhile, Emi from “The Spirit of Life Day” feels less like a real character and more a device for an on-the-nose lesson about the true meaning of Life Day.
But there are compelling characters that shine. The Gotal teen, Nit Karkson, who Stellan encounters and follows into the lower levels of Coruscant makes an impression. And “A Coruscant Solstice” sets him up to be a reoccurring background character in future High Republic content. The LA-R1 droid in “An Old Hope” and his journey evoke nothing but empathy as the astromech just wants to get home to celebrate the gathering of the clans (a Tatooine holiday).
Aside from expanding on Life Day history within Star Wars canon, we now have new Winter holidays that can fill the atmosphere of publishing content and streaming shows. Solstice Tide can continue to be a gateway in the discussion of class within the Coruscant level system. Knowing that Coruscant levels have been the same for so long shows that both the High Republic and the Empire were eager to expand their influence on other worlds but failed to look inward.
“The Kindling” highlights tales from Aaloth (a Twi’lek populated planet new to canon from Scott’s audio drama The Tempest Runner). That tale includes a new Sith Lord, Darth Quellus, who went to Aaloth to conquer the planet for the Sith Empire. Reflection Day emphasizes the importance of Kyber crystals in the pilgrimage of Church of Force believers across the galaxy. Also, Reflection Day celebrations, like the Hindu Spring Festival Holi, incorporate the colored powder into the festivities.
I am partial to “A Coruscant Solstice” because it is in the world of The High Republic, which is currently all-consuming in Star Wars publishing. And it centers around a main character, Stellan Gios, which adds to the possibility of seeing some of the characters that appeared in this short in other content, where the other new characters introduced in this collection feel more one and done. The story also has the best setting and tone, and it is easy to imagine a mega metropolis covered in snow and decorated for the winter. Part of that could be because a large city immersed in snowfall is a comforting aesthetic (New York City and London for example are popular locations for Christmas films).
A Life Day Treasury felt inevitable as a holiday short story collection and is probably the first in a series of Life Day content for years to come. However, despite this inevitability, Mann and Scott make the best of the short story form by creating interesting canon lore and incorporating existing characters that don’t feel out of place or forced. There are a few misses but those are surrounded by solid stories that combine the themes of Star Wars and the holiday spirit successfully for the young and young at heart.