December 23, 2016
By Iman Sadri
It’s Christmas in Las Vegas and you might notice a seasonal scent is in the air. No, not gingerbread and pumpkin spice, but Dolce and Gabbana. It’s that special time of the year where Iranian Americans from all over the globe (mostly Southern California) flock to Sin City. They come for the concerts, but stay for the buffets and after-parties. Instead of cookies by the fireplace, its martinis at the craps table. Rather than presents being opened Christmas morning, there will be bar tabs being closed. The tradition of Persians visiting Vegas for the holidays dates back to the early 1990’s. In what started out as an evening of several small concerts has escalated to a full fledged extravaganza spanning one week. And, 2016 plans to be the most populous yet, with over 25,000 Iranian Americans expecting to visit the strip, according to the Las Vegas Tourism Board. There will be over 25 concerts and nightclub parties within a seven day span. Concerts by prominent singers such as Mansour, Ebi and Shadmehr Aghili set the stage for after-parties at clubs such as Tao, Marquee and Hyde. It is at these after parties that singers of the Millennial generation, such as Sami Beigi, are headliners. Translation: The parties begin when the concerts end.
During Christmas in Vegas, don’t be surprised if the Vegas Strip will resemble the Sunset Strip. Or if the jingle of the slot machines becomes drowned by the chatter of Farsi. More so than the concerts, Persians visit Vegas for the people-watching and a flirt with hedonism. They come for the convenience of having a large get-together without the hassle of hosting. It’s an opportune time of the year to see old friends and distant relatives. “It’s a reunion of sorts,” says Dr. Kaveh Karandish, a physician from Arizona. “It’s great to see friends and colleagues that you may have not seen since graduate school. You may even run into distant family that you haven’t seen in awhile.”
The gathering of Iranian diaspora that flock to Vegas is not limited to singles. Countless families with children that may otherwise be spending Christmas at home attend as well. Also, the influx of Persians to Vegas during the Holidays is not limited to any religious denomination. What’s unique and unusual about the holidays in Vegas is that one may even forget that it’s Christmas, save for the lobbies of the Wynn and Bellagio, which are always festively decorated with Christmas cheer. With so many Persians taking over the Vegas Strip, it may not be about forgetting that it’s Christmas, but realizing that it’s not Norooz.
Iman Sadri is the founder of Hollywood Smile TV and blogs for Persian Media outlets.