“How appropriate do I have to be?” was the first thing Lila asked me about describing this tradition.
Background: Lila attends Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA. When she arrived at school she called my friends to ask us if we had ever heard of Erin Express. When we all assured her that we had never heard of that she began to describe this Philly-wide tradition called Erin Express that related to St. Patrick’s Day.
Context: I had this conversation with Lila over the phone. I recorded our conversation and transcribed it below.
“I go to Drexel University in Philadelphia. When I first got here I started hearing about this event. Actually I don’t even want to call it an event, it’s not an event. Its something the city… it’s like the 3 weekends leading up to Saint Patrick’s day, a bunch of bars and clubs in the area will have a kind of bar crawl? If you go to college in Philadelphia you will have pregames* starting in the morning and then go to those bar crawls. So basically the three weekends leading up to St. Patrick’s day and then on St. Patrick’s day you will get dressed up, you’ll wake up early, wear all St. Patrick’s day apparel and basically day drink the whole day and go to different bars. And it’s not just something college kids do, it’s something that older people do too. It’s not a college thing, I guess if you’re in college you’ll start at frats but end up at bars. It was something interesting about the culture here that I had never heard and something cool that Philly does. Yeah.”
When I asked her to elaborate on what people typically wear, this is what she said;
“You dress up like it’s St. Patrick’s Day, even if it is multiple weeks before. The whole theme of it is Irish? A lot of time friend groups or sororities will make a t-shirt for it that people will buy that have puns about Erin Express since that’s the name of it or puns about St. Patrick’s Day or different cute designs. It’s almost like tailgate t-shirt culture** but in a different kind of setting.”
*Pregame- a pre-party where people get together to drink alcohol before going out to a bar, typically as a way to save money on drinks once you’re at the bar. It is also a way to meet up with your friends to “get the party started”.
** Many sororities and fraternities at various schools will make t-shirts that have jokes on them about the school that they are playing often in football that people will wear to tailgates. Some examples for USC would be t-shirts that say “Tri Delta Tailgates” or “FUCLA” (as a way of insulting a rival).