Chicago is a city steeped in tradition. Some are strange, while others make perfect sense, such as not putting ketchup on your hotdog.
Although Chicago's traditions can make the transition into the city a little daunting for newcomers, it is critical to understand the Windy City's storied traditions and staples for a smooth transition.
The first and most well-known Chicago tradition is never putting ketchup on a Chicago hot dog. Former President Barack Obama has even stated publicly that ketchup does not belong on a hot dog after the age of eight.
The perfect Chicago style hot dog, according to Tastes of Chicago, consists of a steamed poppy seed bun and an all-beef hot dog (preferably Vienna), topped with yellow mustard, green relish, chopped onions, tomato slices, a pickle spear, some sport peppers, and celery salt.
Adding ketchup to this already perfect concoction seems unnecessary and disrespectful to the legendary Chicago hot dog. Most Chicago hot dog stands will not deny you ketchup, but they may cause you trouble if you request it.
Thirty-Fifth Street Red Hots, located near Guaranteed Rate Field, was the first restaurant in Chicago to have a "Ketchup Bell of Shame." Thirty-fifth Street requires you to ring a bell if you want ketchup for anything, in the hopes that those who use the illegal substance will reconsider.
Second, if you're a Chicagoan, you'll never call the Sears Tower the Willis Tower. Along with the leasing rights, the Sears Tower's naming rights were sold in 2009 to the Willis Group, a London-based insurance brokerage, who decided to rename the building.
The Sears Tower became an icon of Chicago's identity and culture in the 1970s and 1980s. Sears was founded and headquartered in Chicago, and it was deeply ingrained in the city's identity.
The Willis Tower's name change has gone completely unnoticed by almost all Chicagoans. Surprisingly, this is just one of many things that Chicagoans refuse to refer to by their proper name.
One of the most notable is a structure known as "The Bean," or is that what it's actually called? The artist's name for "The Bean" is actually the "Cloud Gate." Yes, that gleaming bean next to the water-spitting giants is a cloud.
Anish Kapoor, the sculptor of "The Bean," called the nickname "completely stupid" when it first surfaced. But, as the name has become more common throughout the city and country, he has grown to like it.
"It's fantastic that it has a colloquial name, its own lingo," Kapoor said. "I, too, call it 'The Bean.'"
For all of their expressways, Chicago now has its own naming system. Chicago uses names rather than the numerical system that the US Department of Transportation assigned to all roadways on the federal interstate highway system.
I-290 represents Eisenhower, I-55 represents Stevenson, I-94 represents Edens, I-90 represents Kennedy, I-90/94 represents Dan Ryan, I-88 represents Reagan, I-294 represents the Tri-State, and I-94 South represents Bishop Ford. These name distinctions serve as a key indicator of whether you are from Chicago or not.
"Telling drivers to take the Outer Drive or the Dan Ryan is still perplexing to outsiders," said Colleen Doody, a Chicago native and DePaul history professor.
Doody also alluded to another name change by using the phrases "Inner Drive" and "Outer Drive," which refer to the colloquial names of Lake Shore Drive's two different lanes. The term "Inner Drive" refers to more local traffic and is much smaller in scale than "Outer Drive." "Outer Drive" is what most people think of when they think of Lake Shore Drive, and it is much longer than "Inner Drive."
While opposition to name changes is an important part of Chicago culture, it is not unique to the city. Hallie Long, a DePaul senior and Buffalo native, discovered that their city has a very similar tradition.
"In Buffalo, our arena is bought by a new company every ten years, and the name changes all the time, but I still refer to it by the name it had when I was in third grade," Long explained.
Long also compares Chicago to a "bigger Buffalo," demonstrating how these parallels can help people like Long feel more at ease in the city. These similarities do not lessen Chicago's uniqueness, but rather demonstrate the city's melting pot of cultures.
Chicago traditions include not only the way they do things, but also the events that take place here. Krystal Diaz, a Chicago native and DePaul Junior, says her favorite Chicago traditions are the holiday celebrations.
"The Christmas tree lighting and the Saint Patrick's Day Parade are two of my favorite traditions," Diaz said.
Holiday celebrations have become deeply ingrained in Chicago culture, and the city has found ways to make them unique. Because of the city's famous river dyeing, which turns the Chicago River green, the St. Patrick's Day parade is one of the city's biggest events.
These traditions and colloquialisms are what give Chicago its distinct flavor, which has captivated so many visitors. While it may appear intimidating from the outside, Chicago is one of the friendliest and most connected cities in the world.
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