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Celebrating James Joyce with a Bloomsday Festival

By June 16, 2022Authors, News

Bloomsday is celebrated in Dublin and worldwide on June 16th in honour of James Joyce, particularly his novel Ulysses. 

Ulysses follows the story of Leopold Bloom, as well as a host of other characters around him, through one particular day- June 16th 1904.

Bloomsday is, of course, named after the central character Leopold Bloom, and to celebrate his day festival-goers will dress up as characters from Ulysses, or in general garb of people from the early 1900s. The straw boater hat in particular has become a iconic piece of anyone’s costume on Bloomsday.

People celebrate in different ways for Bloomsday. As well as the usual readings or performances of Ulysses, people seek out the real-life places mentioned in the book, or enjoy food eaten by Leopold. One such meal is the Irish breakfast, consisting of liver and kidneys alongside the usual bacon, tomatoes, and mushrooms.

But why do people celebrate this day, and when did it start..?

via The Irish Times

It is believed that James Joyce chose June 16th 1904 for Ulysses because it was significant for him and his future wife Nora Barnacle.

They had met a week before, on Friday 10th June 1904, and arranged to meet the next Tuesday, however Joyce turned up for their rendezvous but Nora did not. He wrote to her asking to rearrange for another date on June 15th, and they went out the next day.

The summer of 1904 ended up being an important year for Joyce. It was the year he met his love who he said “made him a man”, and he began writing the stories for Dubliners. It was also the year he decided to leave Ireland. A lot of the incidents that happened to and around Joyce that year inspired content for Ulysses- particularly drunken altercations!

The reason Bloomsday became a celebration was actually down to Joyce’s friends. After the publication in 1922 they began calling June 16th Bloomsday.

via Irish Central

The first time Bloomsday was marked in a significant way was in 1929. Adrienne Monnier, partner of Sylvia Beach who published Ulysses, published the book in French and marked the occasion with a celebration for the 25th anniversary of Bloomsday.

The 50th anniversary of Bloomsday was later celebrated in Ireland in 1954. Two writers, Patrick Kavanagh and Flann O’Brien, visited significant places found in the book, performed readings, and got very very drunk.

This tradition is continued by fans of James Joyce, and fans gather to read, re-enact their favourite parts, dress up, and perhaps have a little drink, hopefully without too many of the Joycean drunken altercations.

Bloomsday is like no other celebration, especially if celebrating in Dublin where you can walk in the fictional footsteps of Leopold Bloom himself. Will you be celebrating this year?

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