On Bloomsday, literary fans all over the world commemorate author James Joyce on June 16 with all sorts of festivities centered on his landmark novel Ulysses. Walking tours of the Dublin locales mentioned in the novel, street festivals, marathon readings of Ulysses, pub crawls, Edwardian costume contests and more are part of the Bloomsday celebrations in Ireland.
The first Bloomsday celebration took place in 1924. Joyce mentioned it in a letter to a friend, “there is a group of people who observe what they call Bloom’s Day—16th June.” But it wasn’t until 1954 that Bloomsday really took off.
Joyce had a special reason to choose June 16, 1904 to be the date the events in Ulysses take place. It was on that date when he went out on a first date with Nora Barnacle, his future wife and muse. Ulysses’ protagonist, Leopold Bloom, spends June 16, 1904 walking around Dublin and meeting all sorts of different people….hence Bloomsday.
In Dublin, Bloomsday celebrations mean doing things like “eating ‘nutty gizzards, a stuffed roast heart, liver slices fried with crust crumbs, or grilled mutton kidneys’; buying lemon soap; feasting in a pub on gorgonzola sandwiches and burgundy wine; singing songs about those lovely seaside Dublin girls, and repeating Ulysses’ famous last line – ‘Yes, I said, yes I will, yes’ – over and over.
Want to host your own Bloomsday celebration? Make sure you include the following activities:
- Have a reading of Ulysses. If you have a large enough group, act out your favorite moments.
- Plan a pub crawl to your towns Irish pubs.
- Have a costume contest. Encourage your partygoers to dress up as their favorite character.
Want to know how other parts of the world celebrate?Find out more here.