Bloomsday is a commemoration and celebration of the life of Irish writer James Joyce during which the events of his novel Ulysses (which is set on 16 June 1904) are relived. It is observed annually on 16 June in Dublin and elsewhere. Joyce chose the date as it was the date of his first outing with his wife-to-be, Nora Barnacle; they walked to the Dublin suburb of Ringsend. The name is derived from Leopold Bloom, the Ulyssean protagonist.
First Bloomsday celebration
Bloomsday (a term Joyce himself did not employ) was invented in 1954, on the 50th anniversary of the events in the novel, when John Ryan (artist, critic, publican and founder of Envoy magazine) and the novelist Brian O'Nolan organised what was to be a daylong pilgrimage along the Ulysses route. They were joined by Patrick Kavanagh, Anthony Cronin, Tom Joyce (a dentist who, as Joyce's cousin, represented the family interest) and AJ Leventhal (Registrar of Trinity College, Dublin). Ryan had engaged two horse drawn cabs, of the old-fashioned kind, which in Ulysses Mr. Bloom and his friends drive to poor Paddy Dignam's funeral. The party were assigned roles from the novel. They planned to travel round the city through the day, visiting in turn the scenes of the novel, ending at night in what had once been the brothel quarter of the city, the area which Joyce had called Nighttown. The pilgrimage was abandoned halfway through, when the weary pilgrims succumbed to inebriation and rancour at the Bailey pub in the city centre, which Ryan then owned, and at which, in 1967, he installed the door to No. 7 Eccles Street (Leopold Bloom’s front door), having rescued it from demolition. A Bloomsday record of 1954, informally filmed by John Ryan, follows this pilgrimage.
The day involves a range of cultural activities including Ulysses readings and dramatisations, pub crawls and other events, much of it hosted by the James Joyce Centre in North Great George's Street. Enthusiasts often dress in Edwardian costume to celebrate Bloomsday, and retrace Bloom's route around Dublin via landmarks such as Davy Byrne's pub. Hard-core devotees have even been known to hold marathon readings of the entire novel, some lasting up to 36 hours. A five-month-long festival, (ReJoyce Dublin 2004), took place in Dublin between 1 April and 31 August 2004. On the Sunday in 2004 before the 100th 'anniversary' of the fictional events described in the book, 10,000 people in Dublin were treated to a free, open-air, full Irish breakfast on O'Connell Street consisting of sausages, rashers, toast, beans, and black and white puddings.
Bloomsday has also been celebrated since 1994 in the Hungarian town of Szombathely, the fictional birthplace of Leopold Bloom's father, Virág Rudolf, an emigrant Hungarian Jew. The event is usually centered on the Iseum, the remnants of an Isis temple from Roman times, and the Blum-mansion, commemorated to Joyce since 1997, at 40–41 Fõ street, which used to be the property of an actual Jewish family called Blum. Hungarian author László Najmányi in his 2007 novel, The Mystery of the Blum-mansion (A Blum-ház rejtélye) describes the results of his research on the connection between Joyce and the Blum family.
The Rosenbach Museum & Library in Philadelphia is the home of the handwritten manuscript of Ulysses and celebrates Bloomsday with a street festival including readings, Irish music, and traditional Irish cuisine provided by local Irish-themed pubs.
New York City has several events on Bloomsday including formal readings at Symphony Space and informal readings and music at the downtown Ulysses' Folk House pub.
The Syracuse James Joyce Club holds an annual Bloomsday celebration at Johnston's BallyBay Pub in Syracuse, New York, at which large portions of the book are either read aloud, or presented as dramatizations by costumed performers. The club awards scholarships and other prizes to students who have written essays on Joyce or fiction pertaining to his work. The city is home to Syracuse University, whose press has published or reprinted several volumes of Joyce studies.
There have been many Bloomsday events in Trieste, where the first part of Ulysses was written. The Joyce Museum Trieste, opened on 16 June 2004, collects works by and about James Joyce, including secondary sources, with a special emphasis on his period in Trieste.
Since 2005 Bloomsday has been celebrated every year in Genoa, with a reading of Ulysses in Italian by volunteers (students, actors, teachers, scholars), starting at 0900 and finishing in the early hours of 17 June; the readings take place in 18 different places in the old town centre, one for each chapter of the novel, and these places are selected for their resemblance to the original settings. Thus for example chapter 1 is read in a medieval tower, chapter 2 in a classroom of the Faculty of Languages, chapter 3 in a bookshop on the waterfront, chapter 9 in the University Library, and chapter 12 ('Cyclops') in an old pub. The Genoa Bloomsday is organized by the Faculty of Languages and the International Genoa Poetry Festival.
In Sydney, Australia, Bloomsday is hosted by the John Hume Institute for Global Irish Studies UNSW in association with the National Irish Association Sydney and the Consulate General of Ireland, Sydney.
Bloomsday in Melbourne has a proud history of engagement with the work of James Joyce. Since 1994, a small committee of Joyceans has read and re-read Joyce and mounted theatrical events designed to communicate the joy of Joyce to its loyal patrons.
On Bloomsday 2011, @Ulysses was the stage for an experimental day-long tweeting of Ulysses. Starting at 0800 (Dublin time) on Thursday 16 June 2011, the aim was to explore what would happen if Ulysses was recast 140 characters at a time. It was hoped that the event would become the first of a series.
Bloomsday has been celebrated annually near the grove with a pond (an unrelated monolith was erected near the place several years ago) just below the Strahov Monastery in Prague since 1993.
BBC Radio Four devoted most of its broadcasting on 16 June 2012, to a dramatisation of Ulysses, with additional comments from critic Mark Lawson talking to Joyce scholars. In the dramatisation, Molly Bloom was played by Niamh Cusack, Leopold Bloom by Henry Goodman, Stephen Daedalus by Andrew Scott, and the Narrator was Stephen Rea.