Bloomsday: 5 things you need to know
As literary enthusiasts don their Edwardian garb and take to the streets of Dublin to celebrate the life and work of James Joyce, here are five things you need to know about Bloomsday.
1. Why is it called Bloomsday?
The day takes its name from Leopold Bloom, the main character in James Joyce’s Ulysses. The novel follows the day-long journey of Mr Bloom (and a number of other characters) around Dublin, beginning at 8am and running through to the early hours of the next morning.
2. Why does it take place on June 16?
The events of Ulysses take place on a single day: June 16, 1904. The date marks the anniversary of what is believed to have been Joyce’s first date with Nora Barnacle, the Galway waitress who became his wife. She also provided the inspiration for the character of Molly Bloom in Ulysses. The couple had two children, Giorgio and Lucia.
3. When was the first Bloomsday?
The earliest known Bloomsday celebration took place in 1929, when Sylvia Beach, the publisher of Ulysses, and her partner Adrienne Monnier hosted a Ulysses lunch at the Leopold restaurant near Versailles, France. Bloomsday came to Ireland in 1954, when the writers Patrick Kavanagh and Flann O’Brien honoured the 50 anniversary of the day on which the story takes place with a tour of various locations featured in the novel. They visited the Martello Tower at Sandycove, Davy Byrne’s pub and 7 Eccles Street while reading excerpts from the book.
4. How do people in Ireland celebrate Bloomsday?
You may have noticed people dressed in full Edwardian costume around Dublin today, where Joyce enthusiasts gather for a Bloomsday tour each year, much like the one conducted by Patrick Kavanagh and Flann O’Brien more than 60 years ago. The James Joyce Centre also welcomes guests to have kidney for breakfast, just as Leopold Bloom does in the novel, while Sweny’s Pharmacy – where Leopold Bloom famously bought lemon soap – hosts readings throughout the day.
5. Do other countries do anything to mark the day?
From Australia to Brazil, fans around the world commemorate the day with a selection of readings, exhibitions, dance and music. In New Zealand, Lucy Lawless (also known as Xena, Warrior Princess) will take to the stage in Auckland’s red light district for a performance of Ulysses, while fans in Greece can enjoy an event in Athens focused on “Proteus”, the third chapter of the book. There will be a reading marathon in Santo Domingo, and a night time walk “in Joyce’s footsteps” in Croatia.