Bloomsday is a commemoration observed annually on June 16th in Dublin and elsewhere to celebrate the life of Irish writer James Joyce and relive the events in his novel Ulysses, all of which took place on the same day in Dublin in 1904. Joyce chose the date because his first outing with his wife-to-be, Nora Barnacle happened on that day, when they walked to the Dublin urban village of Ringsend. The name derives from Leopold Bloom, the protagonist of Ulysses.
The day involves a range of cultural activities including Ulysses readings and dramatisations, pub crawls and general merriment, 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. The first celebration took place in 1954, and a major 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.
On Bloomsday 1982, the centenary year of Joyce's birth, Irish state broadcaster, RTÉ, transmitted a continuous 30-hour dramatic performance of the entire text of Ulysses on radio.
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.
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.
In 2004 Vintage Publishers issued yes I said yes I will Yes: A Celebration of James Joyce, Ulysses, and 100 Years of Bloomsday, edited by Nola Tully. It is one of the few monographs that details the increasing popularity of Bloomsday. The book's title comes from the novel's famous last lines.
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 around the Iseum, the remnants of an Isis temple from Roman times, and the Blum-mansion, commemorated to Joyce since 1997, at 40-41 F? 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.
There have been many Bloomsday events in Trieste, where the first part of Ulysses was written; a Joyce Museum was opened there on 16 June 2004. 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 9 A.M. 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.
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.
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 Flann O'Brien 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). 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 Lestrygonians 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.
Popular culture references:
In 1956, Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath were married by special licence of the Archbishop of Canterbury at St George the Martyr Church, Holborn, on 16 June, in honour of Bloomsday.
In Mel Brooks' 1968 film The Producers, Gene Wilder's character is called Leo Bloom, an homage to Joyce's character. In the musical 2005 version, in the evening scene at the Bethesda Fountain in Central Park, Leo asks, "When will it be Bloom's day?". However, in the earlier scene in which Bloom first meets Max Bialystock, the office wall calendar shows that the current day is 16 June, indicating that it is, in fact, Bloomsday.
Punk band Minutemen have a song on their 1984 Double Nickels on the Dime album entitled "June 16th".
Richard Linklater references Ulysses in two of his films. Once in 1991's Slacker, where a character reads an excerpt from Ulysses after convincing his friends to dump a tent and a typewriter in a river as a response to a prior lover's infidelity. And again in 1995's Before Sunrise, where the events take place on 16 June.
In 2009 an episode of the cartoon The Simpsons, "In the Name of the Grandfather", featured the family's trip to Dublin and Lisa's reference to Bloomsday.
Pat Conroy's 2009 novel "South of Broad" has numerous references to Bloomsday. From the publisher's blurb: "Against the sumptuous backdrop of Charleston, South Carolina, South of Broad gathers a unique cast of sinners and saints. Leopold Bloom King, our narrator, is the son of an amiable, loving father who teaches science at the local high school. His mother, an ex-nun, is the high school principal and a well-known Joyce scholar. ..." The book's first chapter describes the events of 16 June 1969 in Leo's story.
U2's 2009 song "Breathe" refers to events taking place on a fictitious 16 June.
Lilac Bloomsday Run:
In Spokane, Washington, United States, an annual 12-kilometre race called the Lilac Bloomsday Run is held on the first Sunday of May. The inaugural Bloomsday road race took place on 1 May 1977, and the race is now one of the largest road races on the West Coast of the US. The connection with the Joycean Bloomsday is that, according to the event's founder, Don Kardong, a road race is an odyssey (like the one referred to in Ulysses) and ordinary people are involved in heroic journeys every day of their lives.