Thursday, January 1


Because New Year's Wouldn't be New Year's without Field Marshal Radetzky

The Grand Finale of the Vienna Philharmonic's New Year's Concert is, to my knowledge, always Johann Strauss's cheerfully militaristic Radetzky March, named after the most famous of Emperor Franz Josef's generals. (Who else but the funloving Austrians would write a march that could virtually double, with some creative tweaks, as a waltz or polka tune?) Having watched the concert for years on PBS (with the narration, I'm not sure why, of the soothingly geriatric Walter Cronkite) it seems appropriate here to pass on this particular Proustean/Pavlovian facet of my childhood to you today.

There's also Die Fledermaus, of course, if you're in the mood for something a bit longer and more endearingly silly on New Year's. (Prince Orlovsky reminds you that even a clever bear cannot lay eggs. Drink responsibly.) And if you feel something a bit more Latin, or perhaps inadvertently inducing choking, there's the Hispanic custom (familiar to my Cuban grandmother) of eating twelve grapes at midnight, in between strokes of the clock. (The dirty little secret behind this was apparently it was a marketing attempt to sell off excess grapes after a particularly large harvest occurred in 1909, in the Spanish province of Alicante).

Happy New Year! Prosit Neujahr! And, of course, a hearty A.E.I.O.U. to all our Hapsburg cryptogram enthusiasts.

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