Comments & Curiosities: Lesser-known New Year's plans

"Maybe it's much too early in the game. Ah, but I thought I'd ask you just the same, what are you doing New Year's – New Year's Eve?"

I didn't write that.

Frank Loesser did, in 1947. A boatload of people have sung it, but I'd say it's a tie for first place between Ella Fitzgerald and Johnny Mathis.

But what to do on New Year's Eve is always a problem, is it not? Going out can be a hassle, staying home makes you think there is a large "L" on your forehead, hosting the party at your house is fraught with risk, from minor red wine spills to major party manner malfunctions.

Here's what they do in other countries, in case you care, which you probably don't.

In Siberia, they cut a hole in the ice on a frozen lake then professional divers drag a "New Year's Tree" to the bottom. One diver secures the tree to the lakebed while the other divers dance around it, along with the folks back on the surface. I guess that's fun but something tells me there has to be a lot of vodka involved for it to work.

In Germany, "lead pouring" is a custom that's used to predict the new year. A bit of lead for each guest is melted on a heated spoon then dropped into water to cool. The shape it forms predicts what kind of year you're going to have. A sphere represents luck rolling your way, but a cross-shape signifies death. Well OK then, there is a party game for everyone. There are nine people at the party, eight of them get a sphere, and you get a cross. Happy New Year!

In Mexico, people gather in a dark room, join hands to form a circle around a candle and call upon spirits to foretell the coming year and guide them through it. Wow. Happy, Spooky New Year.

In Scotland, people celebrate the end of one year and the start of the next as Hogmanay, an ancient Scottish word that means "a large number of pigs." No it doesn't. I made that up. No one knows exactly what it means. But to celebrate it, the Scots set barrels of tar on fire and send them careening down steep hills.

New Year's in Thailand lasts three days and is known as songkran, which means "hogmanay." No it doesn't. I made that up, too. Songkran is named after the Thai god of the harvest. The high point of the festival is everyone crowding into the streets and pouring water over each other — friends, family, strangers, everyone — symbolizing a collective prayer for plentiful rains in the coming year. I guess you have to be there. Makes you wonder what the low point of the festival is.

Actually, I've had more than enough water poured on me lately, thanks, but let me tell you what we're doing — going to the Balboa Bay Club and Resort, which is way closer than Thailand, for the annual New Year's Eve Black Tie Gala, "A Night to Remember." And boy is it ever. As far as I'm concerned, if you're stepping out at all on New Year's Eve, there are only two choices: the Rainbow Room at the top of Rockefeller Plaza and the Balboa Bay Club.

But let me ask you this: Which would you say is closer? Correct. Every year, BBC Generalissimo Henry Schielein and his culinary wizards conjure up an evening that is equal parts fun, elegance and a remarkable dinner with paired wines from Master Chef Josef Lageder. Smoked Scottish salmon, beef tenderloin, baked lobster tail, Parisienne potatoes, Tahitian vanilla bean ice cream; I'm sorry, I have to stop now.

Live music, another very important ingredient for me, is delivered on a platinum platter by Rembrandt, an outstanding 12-piece dance band with a crew of vocalists who can lay down everything from Latin jazz to "Isn't It Romantic?" as well as any group anywhere, anytime. With me, just keep the standards coming — "You Go to My Head," "Misty," "Night and Day" — and you own me, lock, stock and linguine. For tickets and more information, call (949) 630-4145.

New Year's and hogmanay, flaming tar barrels and Siberian ice divers. That's what the holidays were meant to be, no? I still think the Balboa Bay Club is your best bet and I promise — no one will pour water on you.

I gotta go.

PETER BUFFA is a former Costa Mesa mayor. His column runs Sundays. He may be reached at

Copyright © 2019, Daily Pilot
EDITION: California | U.S. & World