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 Las Vegas is what I have given the monkier: The Persian Pilgrimige to America's Playground. It's a holiday tradition that began over a decade ago and 2013 plans to be the most populous yet. The Persian Pilgrimage to Vegas began as a series of small concerts drawing a few hundred families. It has now grown to an extravaganza of sorts. There are over 20 concerts and nightclub parties drawing thousands, including families, couples and singles. Evening concerts by mainstays such as Ebi, Mansour, and Moein in large casino auditoriums set up the stage for after-parties at clubs such as Tao, Marquee and Haze. Many of the nightclub after-parties are headlined by singers, such as Sami Beigi who entertain large crowds that may have just finished going to an evening concert. Translation: The parties only 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 come 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 Sanaz Khandani, a chiropractor from Orange County. “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 individuals who are non-traditional. Countless families with large groups of 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 non-religious group. All of the main religious denominations that Persians comprise can be seen regailing during the Holidays here (albeit most non-practicing). What’s unique and unusual about the holidays in Vegas is that one may even forget that it’s Christmas, save for the lobby of the Wynn and Bellagio. With so many Persians taking over the 702, it may not be so much about forgetting that it’s Christmas, but remembering that it’s not Norooz.