Bloomsday! It’s an excellent day for literature buffs and culture vultures alike to join the celebration of the life of one of Ireland’s most beloved writers – none other than James Joyce. The celebration is all about Joyce and his groundbreaking novel, “Ulysses.” But this occasion does more than merely honor Joyce’s literary masterpiece. Indeed, it also commemorates the date he chose for the setting of his novel. That’s also the same day he began a courtship with his future wife, Nora Barnacle. Coincidence or not?
History of Bloomsday
The beginnings of the Bloomsday celebration trace back to the early 20th century, explicitly turning the clock back to the life and times of Irish writer James Joyce. He published “Ulysses” in 1922, which became a hit, and became best known for Joyce’s innovative style and structure. The story is a snapshot of a single day in Dublin — June 16, 1904 — through the eyes of its protagonist, Leopold Bloom. The novel’s key role in modernist literature is monumental. Even today, it is the subject of heated debate, sparking polarizing views within literary circles.
The idea of Bloomsday as a formal celebration dates back to 1954. The year represented the 50th anniversary of the events depicted in “Ulysses.” Dubliners first celebrated the day, and some of the first to acknowledge the holiday were artists and writers, including John Ryan, Brian O’Nolan, and other literary icons. They embarked on a pilgrimage along the routes mentioned in the “Ulysses,” however, their reenactment of the literary journey was humorously cut short as those celebrating the day became too intoxicated to continue. The outcome embodied the spirit of Joyce’s complex and often humorous narrative style.
How to Celebrate Bloomsday
Celebrating Bloomsday should be a day filled with adventures. Think literary tributes, cultural nods, and a touch of whimsy.
Here are some creative and fun ways to become immersed in the spirit of James Joyce’s Dublin:
Dress in Edwardian Fashion
Dress for the occasion in the era of “Ulysses” by donning Edwardian attire. Perhaps try on a bowler hat, a waistcoat, or a full-length dress — remember that dressing up sets the tone for the day. This sartorial tribute will pay homage to the time of Joyce’s novel and add an element of authenticity and fun to the Bloomsday experience.
Host a “Ulysses” Reading
Gather friends around to read “Ulysses.” Take turns reading passages aloud, and don’t be shy about performing the characters. Award bonus points for using an Irish accent! This group reading brings Joyce’s words to life and fosters a deeper connection among those celebrating this work of classic literature.
Embark on a Bloomsday Pub Crawl
Follow Leopold Bloom’s footsteps — call up some friends and have a James Joyce-inspired pub crawl. Enjoy a pint of Guinness and discuss Joyce’s influence on our literature to this day. Remember, this is not about drinking; it’s about recreating a literary event! Each stop can be an opportunity to discuss “Ulysses” or to simply soak in the atmosphere that so inspired Joyce. Be sure to book a designated driver or hire an Uber!
Cook a Traditional Irish Meal
Prepare to host a Bloomsday feast with Irish staples like Dublin coddle or shepherd’s pie. Culinary daredevils may want to try recreating the infamous “inner organs of beasts and fowls” meal enjoyed by Bloom. This culinary exploration is a delicious way to connect with Joyce’s Edwardian-era Dublin culture.
Join or Organize a Bloomsday Event
Many cities host Bloomsday events. Attendees will find readings, Irish music, and theatrical performances. If there isn’t one nearby, why not organize one? Creating an event can be a wonderful way to spread passion for Joyce’s work, with the chance to bring together like-minded enthusiasts.
Write Like Joyce
Spend some time writing in a stream-of-consciousness style that made James Joyce so famous. Let thoughts flow freely on paper — have zero concern for conventional narrative structure. This exercise challenges creative writing skills and offers a deeper appreciation of Joyce’s literary style.
Explore Joyce’s Other Works
Beyond “Ulysses,” consider reading Joyce’s other writings like “Dubliners” or “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.” Additional readings will help bring more appreciation to his literary genius. Understanding these works of art will give a broader perspective on Joyce’s themes and narrative techniques, and will enrich understanding of his contribution to literature.
Host a Virtual Bloomsday Celebration
Can’t make it to Dublin or any in-person Bloomsday celebrations? Then join online celebrations, virtual tours of Dublin, and webinars discussing Joyce’s work. These virtual events offer a convenient way to join the fun on Bloomsday.
In celebrating Bloomsday, just have fun partaking in the Irish-inspired festivities. So, don some Edwardian attire, crack open that dusty copy of “Ulysses” that might be sitting on the bookshelf, and join in the global homage to James Joyce.