First of all, Halloween is “All Hallowed Evening” historically, not the main event. Indeed, the entire month of November is a time of remembrance of the departed in the Catholic tradition. North Americans have largely lost this custom, but there has lately been a resurgence of interest, due in large part to greater contact with—and appreciation for—the cultures of Latin America. For at least the last two years, the Google Doodle for November has 2 has related to Dia de los Muertos or “Day of the Dead.”
Central European celebrations are moving in their own way; please see my full article on All Souls posted this time last year.
This year, November takes on special significance for me, as the 21st will mark the centennial of Franz Joseph’s passing. This follows considerable reading on the First World War and the conditions that led to it, as well as my 2014 trip to Sarajevo for the hundredth anniversary of the assassination of his nephew, Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Unfortunately, I will not be able to travel to Vienna for the centennial of Franz Joseph’s death.
I understand that the old emperor is something of a controversial figure, not particularly well remembered by present-day Czechs and Slovaks, whom I’ve lived among for seven years, or by others over whose ancestors he reigned. (My costume was partly in jest, almost of necessity—I had to wear cheesy buttons on my breast, since the “medals” which go with that outfit have somehow gotten misplaced in the years since I last dressed up as FJ.) That said, he was probably regarded by those forbears more positively than most modern narratives would indicate. He was widely esteemed among his Jewish subjects, as witnessed by Austrian Jewish authors such as Joseph Roth and Stefan Zweig.
It’s important to remember that Franz Joseph was one of the longest-reigning monarchs in European history (1848-1916). He is the lonely symbol of a decaying, multi-ethnic empire which gave way to modern nation states in WWI’s aftermath, but he also presided over a land that gave the world several Strausses, Arnold Schoenberg, Sigmund Freud, Gustav Klimt, and countless other artists and intellectuals. Whatever his faults, and whatever the troubles of his monarchy, Franz Joseph’s image is one of the most important you’ll encounter on a trip to Vienna.
So look for my centenary post on November 21, which will include pics from various sites associated with his long reign. I’ll also recall the events of November 1989 which helped put Europe back together again.
For what it’s worth, the photo of me in costume was taken at the Lemon Tree Gallery in Cape Charles, Virginia, where I’ve had the privilege of playing—in Galloping Gypsy persona!—on several occasions.