Every year literary fans from all over the world gather to celebrate the Irish writer James Joyce. The celebrations started in Dublin, but over time have become commonplace in cities all over the globe. Many who are not as familiar with the works of Joyce, however, will be left asking one important question.
What is Bloomsday?
Bloomsday is a commemoration of the life of Irish writer James Joyce.
It takes place every June 16, because it is on this day Joyce’s seminal work Ulysses is set, but in 1904.
This date was also significant to Joyce for another reason, as it was the day on which he had his first date with his soon-to-be wife and muse, Nora Barnacle.
As a result of these two significant things which have taken place in Joyce’s life, the date was set for Bloomsday, named after the main character of Ulysses, Leopold Bloom.
The first celebration, which was mentioned in a letter from Joyce to a friend, seemed to take place in 1924 in Dublin, and on the 50th anniversary of the events of the novel, in 1954, Irish writers organised a pilgrimage walk to commemorate the day.
Now, every year a host of cultural events take place in Dublin, many of which are organised by the James Joyce Centre.
However, while the tradition may have started in Ireland, it has not remained there, and now many other countries have taken to putting on commemorative events on June 16 every year.
In the USA, various states have special events, including New York, where an Irish-American lawyer defended Joyce’s New York publishers in their obscenity trial in 1922, which was huge news at the time.
To commemorate him, an address is given in his honour, which also highlights the importance of Joyce’s contributions to the First Amendment (freedom of speech.)
Countries as diverse as the Czech Republic, Hungary, Canada, New Zealand, France and the UK often celebrate on this day, though with differing frequency or vivacity.
Of course, the extent to people’s celebrations this year may be hampered somewhat by COVID-19, though the spirit of Bloomsday will carry on.
After some heavy drinking binges, Joyce and Nora eloped to Zurich, though the couple moved all over Europe in their early years together, while Joyce taught English and worked various jobs.
Eventually he was published, though he attempted various money-making schemes throughout his life, where he and his family moved around Europe.
Joyce gained a great amount of popularity in Ireland during his life, until his death in 1941.
Ulysses (1922) was his most famous novel, but he is famed for his other works such as his short story collection Dubliners (1914), A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916) and Finnegans Wake (1939).