Christmas in Ulysses

At it Again! who created “Romping through Dublin – Ulysses the Manual” provide an insight into the motivation and method behind their work. They are feeling nostalgic about Christmases past

Here at At it Again! Headquarters in Dublin we’ve been leafing  through Ulysses to see what the great man had to say about Christmas. In the Lotus Eaters episode, Bloom has just popped into Swenys Chemist for a bar of lemon soap. He’s ambling towards the Turkish baths, thinking about gambling, embezzling and stealing. He recalls a raffle for a large tender turkey. What luck if you won your Christmas dinner for three pence.

Later on, we find Bloom being digested by the streets of Dublin in the chapter called Lestrygonians. He leaves newspaper offices on Middle Abbey Street in search of lunch, feeding the seagulls on Bachelors Walk before heading down Grafton Street. In Davy Byrne’s moral pub he’s pondering on a sandwich. His mind flits here and there, from his friend Dignam’s funeral earlier in the day, to nonsense rhymes, to religion and food – peace and war depend on some fellow’s digestion. Christmas comes to mind turkey and geeseeat drink and be merry.

In the theatrically fantastic Circe chapter, Bloom has a nostalgic interlude with Mrs Breen, an old flame. They recall a Christmas long gone, full of possibilities, when she was the prettiest deb in Dublin and he was favourite with the ladies. They miss the dear dead days, full of frivolity, parlour games and song.

In the dead of night, Stephen and Bloom are wandering the streets of Dublin from the cabman’s shelter near Butt Bridge up to Eccles Street. Bloom is feeling paternal, wondering how he can help the younger man. Perhaps his fine voice could be made something of, with a bit of training. Maybe Stephen could join their musical and artistic soirees over the Christmas season. He’d be certain to cause a stir amongst the ladies.

His whimsical reveries are interrupted by a horse –

having reached the end of his tether, so to speak, [it] halted and, rearing high a proud feathering tail, added his quota by letting fall on the floor which the brush would soon brush up and polish, three smoking globes of turds.

We love it when Joyce brings his characters back down to earth with a bump.

It is to thoughts of the grand annual Christmas pantomime Sinbad the Sailor that Bloom drifts off to sleep at the end of his day. And as he slumbers, his wife Molly is awake in bed, staring at his feet with thoughts flying from one thing to the next. Forty glorious pages and no punctuation. Surely there’s a Christmas reference in there somewhere? Ah, yes, the servant, that slut Mary in Ontario Terrace, who padded out her bottom to excite Bloom, flaunting her garters and going about the place singing. And Bloom suggesting that she joined them for Christmas dinner. But Molly was on her case, had the upper hand. Issued Bloom an ultimatum. Then gave the sloven a weeks notice.

So, in Ulysses, when it comes to Christmas, it’s all about the expense of it, the rituals of food and religion, the romance of Christmases past, the kiss & tell under the mistletoe scandals and the coming together of friends and family to celebrate with song and banter.

Searching for something quirky for the Joycean in your life? Know somebody who has Ulysses on their bucket list? Wanting to surprise a Dubliner in exile with a memento of home? Give them a chuckle with a fun little stocking filler from At it Again! Check out for stockist, browse the online shop or pop into the Joyce Centre for a special Christmas offer. Buy an At it Again! illustration print and a copy of Romping through Dublin for €20.

BDSK Stocking Satsuma  @AtitAgainDublin