The latest Star Wars movie is seemingly always right around the corner. Which means it's time to focus on what you need to know before seeing The Rise of Skywalker, especially since fan theories will only take you so far. What exactly constitutes as Star Wars canon changed dramatically in 2012 after Disney purchased the rights to the film franchise. All but the existing films and television shows were effectively purged, deeming everything else as unofficial sources in the Star Wars Extended Universe, classifying these "unofficial" sources as Star Wars Legends.
That left a whole lot of unexplained stretches in the overall Star Wars timeline, most notably in the roughly three decades between the conclusion of Return of the Jedi and the start of The Force Awakens. All of this can be very confusing, especially as the Star Wars universe expands further and further with more spinoffs in the works.
It's hard enough to remember all the movies' characters and plot lines, let alone read and play all the comics, books, and games. But the 30-odd years between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens was not a vast empty space, and there is much we can glean from the new continuity to prep for Episode IX, not to mention to add to one's understanding of The Force Awakens and The last Jedi. Here are the essential details of the Star Wars timeline and the history of the Jedi to enhance any viewing of Star Wars movies.
Shortly after the battle of Endor, Han Solo and Princess Leia marry in a small ceremony. While their marriage isn't necessarily a secret, Aftermath: Life Debt makes it clear that the couple only invite close friends and don't make the union public knowledge. The wedding takes place on Endor, the Ewok's homeworld, following the celebration of the destruction of the Death Star - seen at the end of The Return of the Jedi. As a gift to his new wife, Han updates the inside of the Millennium Falcon and adds a galley.
In the same year, 4 ABY (Galactic Standard Calendar for "After the Battle of Yavin"), the Empire sets about implementing Operation Cinder. This is a horrendous contingency plan that Emperor Palpatine designs to destroy what is left of the Empire and the Rebel Alliance in one swoop. Star Wars video game, Battlefront II, demonstrates how Gallius Rax alters Operation Cinder to save key Imperial personnel in an attempt to restart the Galactic Empire. Essentially, satellites that are orbiting above planets, like Naboo and Vardos, are used to set off huge electrical storms and destroy life on the planet's surfaces.
Another event that happens in 4 ABY, not long after the death of Emperor Palpatine, is the formation of the New Republic. In the Aftermath series of novels, the Rebel Alliance sets about forming the New Republic as soon as they can. This is essential so they can organize a proper opposition to the Imperial forces, especially in terms of government. It also allows them to gather new systems to their cause and ensure that the Empire cannot regroup their former military might.
Following the death of Emperor Palpatine at the hands of Darth Vader, wild celebrations break out on various worlds. Citizens of Coruscant quickly descend on Monument Plaza and topple a statue of the dictator before Imperial security forces arrive. The soldiers open fire on the civilians, prompting a full-scale riot to break out. The Aftermath series depicts this as the event that leads to a wider civil war as the Empire tries to keep control of the galactic capital.